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MARGARET SANGER 



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Margaret Sanger 



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MARGARET 
SANGER 



-aJ^5^^^^«5»^-3»^^^-5JMK»^ «S-«K-gfr«6~«C>«3S-«K~««-«$-«g- 



?An <iAutobiography 



new york W-W-NORTON 6f COMPANY publishers 



Copyright, 1938, by 

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 

70 Fifth Avenue, New York 

First Edition 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 
FOR THE PUBLISHERS BY THE VAIL-BALLOU PRESS 



TO ALL THE PIONEERS 
OF NEW AND BETTER WORLDS TO COME 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

My thanks are due especially to Rackham Holt for her discerning aid 
in organizing material and for her untiring and inspired advice dur- 
ing the preparation of this book; as well as to Walter S. Hayward 
whose able assistance has helped to make the task lighter. 

In the course of preparing this narrative many books have been 
consulted. I trust their authors zvill agree with me that a bibliography 
in a personal history is cumbersome and accept a general but none the 
less grateful acknowledgment. 

My admiration has always gone out to the person who can put him- 
self in print and set down for historical purposes an exact record of 
his honest feelings and thoughts, even though they may seem to re- 
flect upon many of his friends and helpers. I have not in this story 
hurt any one by intent. Because its thread has, of necessity, followed 
dramatic highlights, many people who played prominent parts have 
not been mentioned. These I have not forgotten, nor those numerous 
others who made smaller offerings. Some have pioneered in their 
special fields and localities; seme have given generously and unfail- 
ingly of their financial help; some have volunteered in full measure 
their time and efforts as officers and Committee members; some have 
fought and labored by my side throughout the years; some have 
stepped in for only a brief but significant role. Although on the out- 
skirts of the army, it is to these last as well as to those in the vanguard 
that the advance has been made. And particularly do I zuish to thank 
those co-workers and members of the various staffs whose contribu- 
tions can in no way be measured by tlieir duties, and whose indefati- 
gable, loyal devotion Jias been a bulwark of strength to me at all times. 

5 



6 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

It has been impossible to carry out my sincere desire to give per- 
sonal and individual recognition and expression of gratitude to all. 
Neither a history of the birth control movement nor the part I have 
taken in it could be complete, hozvever, did I not pay tribute to the 
integrity, valiance, courage, and clarity of vision of the men and 
women who, year after year, maintained their principles, and never 
swerved from them in a cause which belongs to all of us. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

I. FROM WHICH I SPRING 1 1 

II. . BLIND GERMS OF DAYS TO BE 2\ 

IJI. BOOKS ARE THE COMPASSES 33 

IV. DARKNESS THERE AND NOTHING MORE 46 

V. CORALS TO CUT LIFE UPON 58 

VI. FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS 68 

VII. THE TURBID EBB AND FLOW OF MISERY 86 

VIII. I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP 93 

IX. THE WOMAN REBEL I06 

X. WE SPEAK THE SAME GOOD TONGUE 121 

XI. HAVELOCK ELLIS 1 33 

XII. STORK OVER HOLLAND 1 42 

XIII. THE PEASANTS ARE KINGS 153 

XIV. O, TO BE IN ENGLAND 1 69 
XV. HIGH HANGS THE GAUNTLET 179 

XVI. HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 1 92 

XVII. FAITH I HAVE BEEN A TRUANT IN THE LAW 2IO 

XVIII. LEAN HUNGER AND GREEN THIRST 224 

XIX. THIS PRISON WHERE I LIVE 238 

XX. A STOUT HEART TO A STEEP HILL 25 1 

XXI. THUS TO REVISIT 268 

XXII. DO YE HEAR THE CHILDREN WEEPING? 280 

XXIII. IN TIME WE CAN ONLY BEGIN 292 

7 



8 table of contexts 

xxiv. laws were like cobwebs 306 

xxv. alien" stars arise 316 

xxvi. the east is blossoming 327 

xxvii. ancients of the earth 337 

xxviii. the world is much the same everywhere 349 

xxix. while the doctors consult 358 

xxx. now is the time for converse 369 

xxxi. great heights are hazardous 376 

xxxii. change is hopefully begun 392 

xxxiii. old father antic, the law 398 

xxxiv. senators, be not affrighted 413 

xxxv. a past which is goxn'e forever 43 1 

xxxvi. faith is a fine invention 447 

xxxvit. who can take a dream for truth? 461 

xxxviii. depth but not tumult 478 

xxxix. slow grows the splendid pattern 493 

index 497 



MARGARET SANGER 



Chapter One 



FROM WHICH I SPRING 



"'Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?' he asked. 'Begin 
at the beginning,' the King said, very gravely, 'and go on till you 
come to the end: then stop.'" 

LEWIS CARROLL 



THE streets of Corning, New York, where I was born, climb 
.right up from the Chemung River, which cuts the town in 
two ; the people who live there have floppy knees from going up and 
down. When I was a little girl the oaks and the pines met the stone 
walks at the top of the hill, and there in the woods my father built 
his house, hoping mother's "congestion of the lungs" would be 
helped if she could breathe the pure, balsam-laden air. 

My mother, Anne Purcell, always had a cough, and when she 
braced herself against the wall the conversation, which was forever 
echoing from room to room, had to stop until she recovered. She was 
slender and straight as an arrow, with head well set on sloping shoul- 
ders, black, wavy hair, skin white and spotless, and with wide-apart 
eyes, gray-green, flecked with amber. Her family had been Irish as 
far back as she could trace; the strain of the Norman conquerors had 
run true throughout the generations, and may have accounted for her 
unfaltering courage. 

Mother's sensitivity to beauty found some of its expression in 
flowers. We had no money with which to buy them, and she had no 
time to grow them, but the woods and fields were our garden. I can 
never remember sitting at a table not brightened with, blossoms ; from 
the first spring arbutus io the last goldenrod of autumn we had an 
abundance. 

Although this was the Victorian Age, our home was almost free 

ii 



12 MARGARET SANGER 

from Victorianism. Father himself had made our furniture. He had 
even cut and polished the slab of the big "marble-topped table," as it 
was always called. Only in the spare room stood a piece bought at 
a store — a varnished washstand. The things you made yourself were 
not considered quite good enough for guests. Sometimes father's 
visitors were doctors, teachers, or perhaps the village priest, but 
mostly they were the artisans of the community — cabinet makers, 
masons, carpenters who admired his ideas as well as shared his pas- 
sion for hunting. In between tramping the woods and talking they 
had helped to frame and roof the house, working after hours to do 
this. 

Father, Michael Hennessy Higgins, born in Ireland, was a non- 
conformist through and through. All other men had beards or mus- 
taches — not lie. His bright red mane, worn much too long accord- 
ing to the family, swept back from his massive brow ; he would not 
clip it short as most fathers did. Actually it suited his finely-modeled 
head. He was nearly six feet tall and hard-muscled; his keen blue 
eyes were set off by pinkish, freckled skin. Homily and humor rip- 
pled unceasingly from his generous mouth in a brogue which he 
never lost. The jokes with which he punctuated every story were 
picked up, retold, and scattered about. When I was little they were 
beyond me, but I could hear my elders laughing. 

The scar on father's forehead was his badge of war service. When 
Lincoln had called for volunteers against the rebellious South, he 
had taken his only possessions, a gold watch inherited from his 
grandfather and his own father's legacy of three hundred dollars, 
and had run away from his home in Canada to enlist. But he had 
been told he was not old enough, and was obliged to wait impa- 
tiently a year and a half until, on his fifteenth birthday, he had joined 
the Twelfth New York Volunteer Cavalry as a drummer boy. 

One of father's adventures had been the capture of a Confederate 
captain on a fine mule, the latter being counted the more valuable 
acquisition to the regiment. We were brought up in the tradition 
that he had been one of three men selected by Sherman for brav- 
ery. That made us very proud of him. Better not start anything with 
father; he could beat anybody! But he himself had been appalled by 
the brutalities of war; never thereafter was he interested in fighting, 



FROM WHICH I SPRING 1 3 

unless perhaps his Irish sportsmanship cropped out when two well- 
matched dogs were set against each other. 

Immediately upon leaving the Army father had studied anatomy, 
medicine, and phrenology, but these had been merely for perfecting 
his skill in modeling. He made his living by chiseling angels and 
saints out of huge blocks of white marble or gray granite for tomb- 
stones in cemeteries/He was a philosopher., a rebel, and an artist, 
none of which was calculated to produce wealth.jOur existence was 
like that ofy any artist's family — chickens today and feathers to- 
morrow. ' i 

"Christmases were on the poverty line. If any of us needed a new 
winter overcoat or pair of overshoes, these constituted our presents. 
I was the youngest of six, but after me others kept coming until we 
were eleven. Our dolls were babies — living, wriggling bodies to bathe 
and dress instead of lifeless faces that never cried or slept. A pine 
beside the door was our Christmas tree. Father liked us to use natu- 
ral things and we had to rely upon ingenuity rather than the village 
stores, so we decorated it with white popcorn and red cranberries 
which we strung ourselves. Our most valuable gift was that of im- 
agination. 

We had little time for recreation. School was five miles away and 
we had to walk back and forth twice a day as well as perform house- 
hold duties. The boys milked the cow, tended the chickens, and took 
care of Tom, the old white horse which pulled our sleigh up and 
down the hill. The girls helped put the younger children to bed, 
molded clothes, set the table, cleaned the vegetables, and washed the 
dishes. We accepted all this with no sense of deprivation or aggrieve- 
merit, being, if anything, proud of sharing responsibility. 

And we made the most of our vacations. There were so many of 
us that we did not have to depend upon outsiders, and Saturday after- 
noons used to put on plays by ourselves in the barn. Ordinarily we 
were shy about displaying emotions; we looked upon tears and temper 
in other homes with shocked amazement as signs of ill-breeding. 
Play-acting, however, was something else again. Here we could 
find outlet for histrionic talent and win admiration instead of lifted 
eyebrows. I rather fancied myself as an actress, and often mimicked 
some of the local characters, to the apparent pleasure of my limited 



14 MARGARET SANGER 

audience of family and neighbors. It was not long before I slipped 
into declaiming. The Lady of Lyons was one of my specialties : 

This is thy palace, where the perfumed light 
Steals through the mist of alabaster lamps, 
And every air is heavy with the sighs 
Of orange groves, and music from the sweet lutes 
And murmurs of low fountains, that gush forth 
F the midst of roses ! 

All outdoors was our playground, but I was not conscious at the 
time of my love for the country. Things in childhood change per- 
spective. What was taken for granted then assumes great significance 
in later life. I knew how the oak tree grew and where the white and 
yellow violets could be found, and with a slight feeling of superiority 
I showed and expounded these mysteries to town children. Not until 
pavements were my paths did I realize how much a part of me the 
country was, and how I missed it. 

We were all, brothers and sisters alike, healthy and strong, vigor- 
ous and active ; our appetites were curtailed only through necessity. 
We played the same games together and shared the same sports — 
baseball, skating, swimming, hunting. Nevertheless, except that we 
all had red hair, shading from carrot to bronze, we were sharply 
distinct physically. The girls were small and feminine, the boys 
husky ?:id brawny. When I went out into the world and observed 
men, otherwise admirable, who could not pound a nail or use a saw, 
pick, shovel, or ax, I was dumfounded. I had always taken for granted 
that any man could make things with his hands. 

I expected this even of women. My oldest sister, Mary, possessed, 
more than the rest of us, an innate charm and gentleness. She could 
do anything along domestic lines — embroidery, dress making, tailor- 
ing, cooking ; she could concoct the most delicious and unusual foods, 
and mix delicate pastries. But she was also an expert at upholster- 
ing, carpentry, painting, roofing with shingles or with thatch. When 
Mary was in the house, we never had to send for a plumber. She rode 
gracefully and handled the reins from the carriage seat with equal 
dexterity; she could milk a cow and deliver a baby; neighbors called 
her to tend their sick cattle, or, when death came, to lay out the body; 



FROM WHICH I SPRING 1 5 

she tutored in mathematics and Latin, and was well-read in the 
classics, yet she liked most the theater, and was a dramatic critic 
whose judgment was often sought. In all that she did her sweetness 
and dearness were apparent, though she performed her many kind- 
nesses in secret. She left the home roof while I was still a child, but 
she never failed to send Christmas boxes in which every member of 
the family shared, each gift beautifully wrapped and decorated with 
ribbons and cards. 

My brothers were ardent sportsmen, although they might not have 
been outstanding scholars. They could use their fists and were as good 
shots as their father. For that matter, we all knew how to shoot ; any 
normal person could manage a gun. Father was a great hunter. Our 
best times were when friends of his came to spend the night, talking- 
late, starting early the next morning for the heavy woods which 
were full of foxes, rabbits, partridge, quail, and pheasant. 

Someone was always cleaning and oiling a gun in the kitchen or 
carrying food to the kennels. The boys were devoted to their fox 
and rabbit hounds, but father lavished his affection on bird dogs. 
Our favorite came to us unsought, unbought, and I had a prideful 
part in his joining the family. One afternoon I was sitting alone by 
the nameless brook which ran by our house, clear and cool, deep 
enough in some places to take little swims on hot summer days. I 
was engaged in pinning together with thorns a wreath of leaves to 
adorn my head when a large, white dog ambled up, sniffed, wagged 
his tail, and seemed to want to belong. This was no ordinary cur, 
but a well-bred English setter which had evidently been lost. How 
father would love him ! 

Even though the dog had no collar, I was slightly uneasy as to 
my right of ownership. One conspicuous brown-red spot on the back 
of his neck simplified my problem. Unobtrusively I slipped him into 
the barn, tied him up, selected a brush, dipped it in one of the cans 
of paint always on hand, and multiplied the one spot by ten. For a 
day, waiting for them to dry, I fed him well with food filched from 
the rations of the other kennel occupants, then led him forth, his 
hairy dots stiffened with paint, and offered him to father as a special 
present. 

Accepting the gift in the spirit in which it was intended, father 



1 6 MARGARET SANGER 

admired the dog's points, and, with an unmistakable twinkle, lent 
himself to a deception which, of course, could deceive nobody. When 
Saturday night came, the neighborhood looked the animal over ; none 
knew him so we named him Toss and admitted him to the house. 
Later he bred with an Irish setter of no importance, and one of the 
resultant puppies, Beauty, shared his privileges. 

Toss, as well as everybody else, subscribed to the idea that the 
"artist" in father must be catered to. With the first sound of his 
clearing his throat in the morning Toss picked up the shoes which 
had been left out to be cleaned, and carried them one at a time to the 
bedroom door, then stood wagging his tail, waiting to be patted. Fa- 
ther's shoes were always polished, his trousers always creased. Every 
day, even when going to work, he put on spotless white shirts with 
starched collars and attachable cuffs ; these were something of a lux- 
ury, because they had to be laundered at home, but they got done 
somehow. 

Father took little or no responsibility for the minute details of the 
daily tasks. I can see him when he had nothing on hand, laughing 
and joking or reading poetry. Mother, however, was everlastingly 
busy sewing, cooking, doing this and that. For so ardent and coura- 
geous a woman he must have been trying, and I still wonder at her 
patience. She loved her children deeply, but no one ever doubted that 
she idolized her husband, and through the years of her wedded life 
to her early death never wavered in her constancy. Father's devo- 
tion to mother, though equally profound, never evidenced itself in 
practical ways. 

The relation existing between our parents was unusual for its day ; 
they had the idea of comradeship and not merely loved but liked and 
respected each other. There was no quarreling or bickering ; none of 
us had to take sides, saying, "Father is right," or, "Mother is right." 
We knew that if we pleased one we pleased the other, and such an 
atmosphere leaves its mark; we felt secure from emotional uncer- 
tainty, and were ourselves guided towards certainty in our future. 
We were all friends together, though not in the modern sense of 
familiarity. A little dignity and formality were always maintained 
and we were invariably addressed by our full names. The century of 
the child had not yet been ushered in. 



FROM WHICH I SPRING 1 7 

In those days young people, unless invited to speak, were seen and 
not heard/ But as soon as father considered us old enough to have 
ideas or opinions, we were given full scope to express them jno mat- 
ter how adolescent. He hated the slavery of pattern and following of 
examples and believed in the equality of the sexes; not only did he 
come out strongly for woman suffrage in the wake of Susan B. 
Anthony, but he advocated Mrs. Bloomer's bloomers as attire for 
women, though his wife and daughters never wore them. He fought 
for free libraries, free education, free books in the public schools, 
and freedom of the mind from dogma and cant. Sitting comfortably 
with his feet on the table he used to say, "You should give something 
back to your country because you as a child were rocked in the 
cradle of liberty and nursed at the breast of the goddess of truth." 
Father always talked like that. 

Although the first Socialist in the community, father also took 
single tax in his stride and became the champion and friend of Henry 
George. Progress and Poverty was one of the latest additions to our 
meager bookshelf. He laughed and rejoiced when he came upon what 
to him were meaty sentences, reading them aloud to mother, who ac- 
cepted them as fine because he said they were fine. The rest of us all 
. had to plow through the book in order, as he said, to "elevate the 
mind." To me it still remains one of the dullest ever written. 

Mother's loyalty to father was tested repeatedly. Hers were the 
responsibilities of feeding and clothing and managing on his in- 
come, combined with the earnings of the oldest children. But fa- 
ther's generosity took no cognizance of fact. Once he was asked to 
buy a dozen bananas for supper. Instead, he purchased a stalk of 
^fifteen dozen, and on his way home gave every single one to school- 
boys and girls playing at recess. On another occasion he showed up 
with eight of a neighbor's children ; the ninth had been quarantined 
for diphtheria. They lived with us for two months, crowded into 
our beds, tucked in between us at the table. Mother welcomed them 
as she did his other guests. The house was always open. She was 
not so much social-minded as inherently hospitable. But with her 
frail body and slim pocketbook, it took courage to smile. 

Once only that I can remember did mother's patience give way. 
That was when father invaded her realm too drastically and invited 



1 8 MARGARET SANGER 

Henry George to lecture at the leading hotel — with banquet thrown 
in. From the money saved for the winter coal he had taken enough 
to entertain fifty men whose children were well-fed and well-clothed. 
This was the sole time I ever knew my parents to be at odds, though 
even then I heard no quarreling words. Whatever happened between 
them I was not sure, but father spent several days wooing back the 
smile and light to her eyes. 

After Henry George's visit we had to go without coal most of the 
winter. 

With more pleasure than Progress and Poverty I recall a History 
of the World, Lalla Rookh, Gulliver's Travels, and Aesop's Fables. 
The last-named touched a sympathetic, philosophical chord in fa- 
ther. "Wolf! Wolf!" and "Sour Grapes" were often used to ex- 
emplify the trifling imperfections to which all human beings were 
subject. For his parables he drew also on the Bible, the most enor- 
mous volume you ever laid eyes on, brass bound, with heavy clasps, 
which was the repository of the family statistics; every birth, mar- 
riage, death was entered there. The handbooks to father's work 
were the physiologies, one of which was combined with a materia 
medica. These were especially attractive to me, perhaps because they 
were illustrated with vivid plates, mostly red and blue, and described 
the fascinating, unknown interior of the human body. 

Neighbors were constantly coming to father for help. "What do you 
think is the matter with this child?" Even without a thermometer he 
could tell by feeling the skin whether you were feverish. He pre- 
scribed bismuth if the diagnosis were "summer complaint," castor 
oil if you had eaten something which had disagreed with you, and 
always sulphur and molasses in the spring "to clean the blood." 

Father's cure-all was whiskey — "good whiskey," which "liberated 
the spirit." There was nothing from a deranged system to a de- 
pressed mind that it could not fix up. He never drank alone, but no 
masculine guest ever entered the door or sat down to pass the time of 
day without his producing the bottle. "Have a little shtimulant ?" 

The chief value of whiskey to father, however, was medicinal. If 
mumps turned into a large, ugly abscess, he put the blade of his jack- 
knife in the fire, lanced the gland, and cleaned the wound with 
whiskey — good whiskey. When my face was swollen with erysipelas, 



FROM WHICH I SPRING 19 

he painted it morning, afternoon, and evening with tincture of io- 
dine ; the doctor had so ordered. I was held firmly in place each time 
this torture was inflicted, and, as soon as released, jumped and ran 
screaming and howling into the cellar, where I plunged my burning 
face into a pan of cool buttermilk until the pain subsided. This went 
on for several days, and I was growing exhausted from the dreaded 
iodine. Finally father decided to abandon the treatment and substi- 
tute good whiskey. Then I recovered. 

As necessary to father as the physiologies was a book by the fa- 
mous phrenologist, Orson Fuller, under whom he had studied. Fa- 
ther believed implicitly that the head was the sculptured expression 
of the soul. Straight or slanting eyes, a ridge between them, a 
turned-up nose, full lips, bulges in front of or behind the ears — all 
these traits had definite meaning for him. A research worker had to 
be- inquisitive, a seeker with more than normal curiosity-bumps ; 
a musician had to have order and time over the eyebrows ; a pugilist 
could not he made but had to have the proper protuberances around 
the ears. 

One of father's phrases was, "Nature is the perfect sculptor ; she 
is never wrong. If you seem to have made a mistake in reading, it is 
because you have not read correctly." He himself seldom made a mis- 
take, and his reputation spread far and wide. Young men in confu- 
sion of mind and the customary puzzled, pre-graduation state came 
from Cornell and other colleges to consult him about their careers. 
He examined heads and faces, told them where he thought their true 
vocations lay, and supplemented this advice later with voluminous in- 
terested correspondence. I could not help picking up his principles 
and some of his ardor, though I have never been able to analyze char- 
acter so well. No amount of front or salesmanship could divert him, 
whereas I have often been taken in by a person's self-confidence and 
estimation of himself. 

In the predominantly Roman Catholic community of Corning, set 
crosses in the cemeteries were the rule for the poor and, before they 
went out of style, angels in various poses for the rich. I used to 
watch father at work. The rough, penciled sketch indicated little; 
even less did the first unshaped block of stone. He played with the 
hard, unyielding marble as though it were clay, making a tiny chip 



20 MARGARET SANGER 

for a mouth, which grew rounder and rounder. A face then emerged, 
a shoulder, a sweep of drapery, praying hands, until finally the whole j 
stood complete with wings and halo. 

Although Catholics were father's best patrons, by nature and up- 
bringing he deplored their dogma. He joined the Knights of Labor, 
who were agitating against the influx of unskilled immigrants from 
Catholic countries, and this did not endear him to his clientele. Still 
less did his espousal of Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, a man after his 
own heart, whose works he had eagerly studied and used as texts. 
Once when the challenger was sounding a ringing defiance in near-by 
towns, father extended an invitation to speak in Corning and en- 
lighten it. He collected subscriptions to pay for the only hall in town, 
owned by Father Coghlan. A notice was inserted in the paper that 
the meeting would be held the following Sunday, but chiefly the 
news spread by word of mouth. "Better come. Tell all your friends." 

Sunday afternoon arrived, and father escorted "Colonel Bob" 
from the hotel to the hall, I trotting by his side. We pushed through 
the waiting crowd, but shut doors stared silently and reprovingly — 
word had also reached Father Coghlan. 

Some were there to hear and learn, others to denounce. Antipathies 
between the two suddenly exploded in action. Tomatoes, apples, and 
cabbage stumps began to fly.^This was my first experience of rage 
directed against those holding views which were contrary to accepted 

/ones!\[t was my first, but by no means my last. I was to encounter it 
many times, and always with the same bewilderment and disdain. 
My father apparently felt only the disdain. Resolutely he announced 
the meeting would take place in the woods near our home an hour 
later, then led Ingersoll and the "flock" through the streets. I trudged 
along again, my small hand clasped in his, my head held just as high. 
Who cared for the dreary, dark, little hall ! In the woodland was 
room for all. Those who had come for discussion sat spell-bound on 
the ground in a ring around the standing orator. For them the boo- 
ing had been incidental and was ignored. I cannot remember a word 
of what Colonel Ingersoll said, but the scene remains. It was late in 
the afternoon, and the tall pines shot up against the fiery radiance 
of the setting sun, which lit the sky with the brilliance peculiar to the 
afterglows of the Chemung Valley. 



FROM WHICH I SPRING 21 

Florid, gray-haired Father Coghlan, probably tall in his prime, 
came to call on mother. He was a kindly old gentleman, not really 
intolerant. Shutting the hall had been a matter of principle; he could 
not have an atheist within those sacred walls. But he was willing to 
talk about it afterwards. In fact, he rather enjoyed arguing with 
rebels. He was full of persuasion which he used on mother, begging 
her to exercise her influence with father to make him refrain from 
his evil ways. She had been reared in the faith, although since her 
marriage to a freethinker which had so distressed her parents, she 
had never attended church to my knowledge. The priest was troubled 
to see her soul damned when she might have been a good Catholic, 
and implored her to send her children to church and to the parochial 
school, to stand firm against the intrusion of godlessness. Mother 
must have suffered from the conflict. 

None of us realized how the Ingersoll episode was to affect our 
well-being. Thereafter we were known as children of the devii^ On 
our way to school names were shouted, tongues stuck out, grimaces 
made; the juvenile stamp of disapproval had been set upon us. But 
we had been so steeped in "heretic" notions that we were not par- 
ticularly bothered by this and could not see ahead into the dark fu- 
ture when a hard childhood was to be made harder. No more marble 
angels were to be carved for local Catholic cemeteries, and, while 
father's income was diminishing, the family was increasing. 

Occasionally big commissions were offered him in adjacent towns 
where his reputation was still high, and he was then away for days 
at a time, coming back with a thousand or fifteen hundred dollars 
in his pocket; we all had new clothes, and the house was full of 
plenty. Food was bought for the winter — turnips, apples, flour, po- 
tatoes. But then again a year might pass before he had another one, 
and meanwhile we had sunk deeply into debt. 

Towards orthodox religion' father's own attitude remained one of 
tolerance. He looked upon the New Testament as the noble story 
of a human being which, because of ignorance and the lack of print- 
ing presses, had become exaggerated. He maintained that religions 
served their purpose; some people depended on them all their lives 
for discipline — to keep them straight, to make them honest. Others 
did not need to be so held in line. But subjection to any church was 



22 MARGARET SANGER 

a reflection on strength and character. You should be able to get from 
yourself what you had to go to church for. 

'When we asked which Sunday School we should attend, he sug- 
gested, "Try them all, but be chained to none." For a year or two I 
made the rounds, especially at Christmas and Easter, when you re- 
ceived oranges and little bags of candy. It was always cold at the 
Catholic church and the wooden benches were very bare and hard; 
some seats were upholstered in soft, red cloth but these were for the 
rich, who rented the pews and put dollars into the plate at collection. 
I never liked to see the figure of Jesus on the cross ; we could not help 
Him because He had been crucified long ago. I much preferred the 
Virgin Mary; she was beautiful, smiling — the way I should like to 
look when I had a baby. 

Saying my prayers for mother's benefit was spasmodic. Ethel, the 
sister nearest my own age, was more given than I to religious phases 
and I could get her in bed faster if I said them with her. One eve- 
ning when we had finished this dutiful ritual I climbed on father's 
chair to kiss him good night. He asked quizzically, "What was that 
you were saying about bread ?" 

"Why, that was in the Lord's Prayer, 'Give us this day our daily 
bread.' " 

"Who were you talking to ?" 

"To God." 

"Is God a baker?" 

I was shocked. Nevertheless, I rallied to the attack and replied as 
best I could, doubtless influenced by conversations I had heard. "No, 
of course not. It means the rain, the sunshine, and all the things to 
make the wheat, which makes the bread." 

"Well, well," he replied, "so that's the idea. Then why don't you 
say so ? Always say what you mean, my daughter ; it is much better." 

Thereafter I began to question what I had previously taken for 
granted and to reason for myself. It was not pleasant, but father had 
taught me to think. He gave none of us much peace. When we put 
on stout shoes he said, "Very nice. Very comfortable. Do you know 
who made them?" 

"Why, yes, the shoemaker." 

We then had to listen to graphic descriptions of factory conditions 



FROM WHICH I SPRING 23 

in the shoe industry, so that we might learn something of the misery 
and poverty the workers suffered in order to keep our feet warm and 
dry. 

Father never talked about religion without bringing in the ballot 
box. In fact, he took up Socialism because he believed it Christian 
philosophy put into practice, and to me its ideals still come nearest 
to carrying out what Christianity was supposed to do. Unceasingly 
he tried to inculcate in us the idea that our duty lay not in consider- 
ing what might happen to us after death, but in doing something here 
and now to make the lives of other human beings more decent. "You 
have no right to material comforts without giving back to society 
the benefit of your honest experience," was one of his maxims, and 
his parting words to each of his sons and daughters who had grown 
old enough to fend for themselves were J "Leave the world better 
because you, my child, have dwelt in it." J 

This was something to live up to. 




Chapter Two 



BLIND GERM OF DAYS TO BE 

"l think, dearest Uncle, that you cannot really wish me to be 
the 'mamma d'une nombreuse famille,' for I think you will see the 
great inconvenience a large family would be to us all, and particu- 
larly to the country, independent of the hardship and inconvenience 
to myself; men never think, at least seldom think, ivhat a hard task 
it is for us women to go through this very often." 

QUEEN VICTORIA to KING LEOPOLD 

OFTEN when my brothers and sisters and I meet we remind 
each other of funny or exciting adventures we used to have, 
but I never desire to live that early part of my life again. Childhood 
is supposed to be a happy time. Mine was difficult, though I did not 
then think of it as a disadvantage nor do I now. 

It never occurred to me to ask my parents for pocket money, but 
the day came during my eighth year when I was desperately in 
want of ten cents. Uncle Tom's Cabin was coming to town. On Sat- 
urday afternoon I started out with one of my playmates, she with 
her dime, I with nothing but faith. We reached the Corning Opera 
House half an hour early. The throng at the entrance grew thicker 
and thicker. Curtain time had almost come, and still no miracle. 
Nevertheless, I simply had to get into that theater. All about me 
had tickets or money or both. Suddenly I felt something touch my 
arm — the purse of a woman who was pressed close beside me. It 
was open, and I could see the coveted coins within. One quick move 
and I could have my heart's desire. The longing was so deep and 
hard that it blotted out everything except my imperative need. I had 
to get into that theater. 

I was about to put out my hand towards the bag when the doors 
were thrown wide and the crowd precipitately surged forward. Be- 

24 



BLIND GERM OF DAYS TO BE 2$ 

ing small, I was shoved headlong under the ropes and into the safety 
of the nearest seat. But I could take no joy in the play. 

As I lay sleepless that night, after a prayer of thanks for my many 
blessings, the crack of Simon Legree's whip and the off-stage hounds 
baying after Eliza were not occupying my mind. Their places were 
taken by pictures of the devil which had tempted me and the hand 
of God which had been stretched out to save me from theft. 

Following this experience, which might have been called a spiritual 
awakening, I began to connect my desires with reasoning about con- 
sequences. This was difficult, because my feelings were strong and 
urgent. I realized I was made up of two Me's — one the thinking Me, 
the other, willful and emotional, which sometimes exercised too great 
a power ; there was danger in her leadership and I set myself the task 
of uniting the two by putting myself through ordeals of various 
sorts to strengthen the head Me. ^ 

To gain greater fortitude, I began to make myself do what I 
feared most — go upstairs alone to bed without a light, go down cel- 
lar without singing, get up on the rafters in the barn and jump on 
the haystack thirty feet below. When I was able to accomplish these 
without flinching I felt more secure and more strong within myself. 

But ahead of me still lay the hardest task of all. 

Across the Chemung some friends of ours had a farm. Their 
orchard, heavy with delectable apples, seemed to me a veritable Eden. 
But to reach it by the wooden wagon bridge was three miles around ; 
my brothers preferred the shorter route over the high, narrow, iron 
span of the Erie Railroad, under which the river raced deep and 
fast. The spaced ties held no terrors for their long legs, and they 
often swung them over the edge while they fished the stream beneath. 
When I made the trip father and brother each gave a hand to which 
I clung fiercely, and they half lifted me over the gaps which my 
shorter legs could hardly compass unaided. Held tight as I was, I be- 
came dizzy from the height, and a panic of terror seized me. In fact, 
the mere thought of the journey, even so well supported, made me 
feel queer. 

The younger children were forbidden to cross the bridge unac- 
companied. But I had to conquer my fear; I had to take that walk 
alone. I trembled as I drew near. The more I feared it, the more 



26 MARGARET SANGER 

determined I was to make myself do it. I can recall now how stoically 
I put one foot on the first tie and began the venturesome and pre- 
carious passage stretching endlessly ahead of me. I dared not look 
down at the water ; I wanted terribly to see that my feet were firmly 
placed, but could not trust my head. 

About halfway over I heard the hum of the steel rails. My sec- 
ond dread had come upon me — the always possible train. I could 
not see it because of the curve at the end of the bridge. The singing 
grew louder as it came closer. I knew I could not get across in time, 
and turned towards the nearest girder to which I might cling. But 
it was six feet away. The engine with a whistling shriek burst into 
view — snorting, huge, menacing, rushing. I stumbled and fell. 

In those days I was plump, and this plumpness saved me. In- 
stinctively my arms went out and curled around the ties as I dropped 
between them. There I dangled over space. The bridge shook; the 
thunder swelled ; the long, swift passenger cars swooped down. I was 
less than three feet from the outer rail, and a new terror gripped 
me. I had seen the sharp, sizzling steam jet out as locomotives drew 
near the station. I screwed my eyes shut and prayed the engineer 
not to turn on the steam. 

After the blur of wheels had crashed by I could feel nothing. 
I hung there, I do not know how long, until a friend of my father, 
who had been fishing below, came to my rescue. He pulled up the 
fat, aching little body, stood me on my feet again, asked me severely 
whether my father knew where I was, gave me two brisk thwacks on 
the bottom, turned my face towards home, and went back to his 
rod and line. 

After waiting a few moments to think matters over I realized 
that it would be impossible for me to retrace my course. Common 
sense aided me. The journey forward was no further than the jour- 
ney back. I stepped ahead far more bravely, knowing if I could reach 
the end of the bridge I would never be so terrified again. Though 
bruised and sore I continued my cautious march and had as good a 
time at the farm as usual. 

However, I returned home by the wooden bridge, the long way 
round, but the practical one. 

When Ethel asked me that night why I was putting vaseline under 



BLIND GERM OF DAYS TO BE 2^ 

my arms I merely said I had scratched myself. Foolhardiness was 
never highly esteemed by anyone in the family. Though resource- 
fulness was taken for granted, running into unnecessary danger 
was just nonsense, and I wanted no censure for my disobedience. 

We were seldom scolded, never spanked! If an unpleasant con- 
versation were needed, no other brother or sister was witness; 
•neither parent ever humiliated one child in front of another. This 
was part of the sensitiveness of both. Mother in particular had a 
horror of personal vehemence or acrimonious arguments; in trying 
to prevent or stop them she would display amazing intrepidity — 
separating fighting dogs, fighting boys, even fighting men. 

Peacemaker as she was, on occasion she battled valiantly for her 
loved ones, resenting bitterly the corporal punishment then customary 
in schools. Once my brother Joe came home with his hands so swol- 
len and blistered that he could not do his evening chore of bringing 
in the wood. Mother looked carefully at them and asked him what 
had happened. He explained that the teacher had fallen asleep and 
several boys had started throwing spitballs. When one had hit her 
on the nose she had awakened with a little scream. 

Most children had the trick of burying their faces behind their 
big geographies and appearing to be studying the page with the most 
innocent air in the world. But Joe had no such technique. He was 
doubled up with laughter. The teacher first accused him of throwing 
the spitball, and, when he denied it, insisted that he name the cul- 
prit. She had been embarrassed by her ridiculous situation, and had 
turned her emotion into what she considered righteous indignation. 
Joe had paid the penalty of being beaten for his unwillingness to vio- 
late the schoolboy code of honor. 

This was injustice and the surest road to mother's wrath. She 
started at once the long trip to the school. When she found no one 
there, she walked more miles to the teacher's home. Reproof was 
called for and she administered it. But that was not enough. She 
then demanded that father go to the Board of Education and take 
Joe with him. There would have been no sleeping in the house with 
her had he not done so. An investigation was promised, which soon 
afterwards resulted in the teacher's dismissal. 

The teachers at the Corning School were no worse than others of 



28 MARGARET SANGER 

their day ; many of them were much better. The brick building was 
quite modern for the time, with a playground around it and good 
principals to guide it. Its superiority was due in part to the influ- 
ence of the Houghtons, the big industrialists of the town. For three 
generations they had been making glassware unsurpassed for tex- 
ture and beauty of design, and hardly a family of means in the coun- 
try did not have at least one cut-glass centerpiece from Corning. The 
factories had prospered during the kerosene lamp era, and now, with 
electricity coming into its own, they were working overtime blowing 
light bulbs. 

Corning was not on the whole a pleasant town. Along the river 
flats lived the factory workers, chiefly Irish; on the heights above 
the rolling clouds of smoke that belched from the chimneys lived the 
owners and executives. The tiny yards of the former were a-sprawl 
with children; in the gardens on the hills only two or three played. 
This contrast made a track in my mind. Large families were asso- 
ciated with poverty, toil, unemployment, drunkenness, cruelty, fight- 
ing, jails; the small ones with cleanliness, leisure, freedom, light, 
space, sunshine. 

The fathers of the small families owned their homes; the young- 
looking mothers had time to play croquet with their husbands in the 
evenings on the smooth lawns. Their clothes had style and charm, 
and the fragrance of perfume clung about them. They walked hand 
in hand on shopping expeditions with their children, who seemed 
positive in their right to live. To me the distinction between happi- 
ness and unhappiness in childhood was one of small families and of 
large families rather than of wealth and poverty. 

In our home, too, we felt the economic pressure directly ascrib- 
able to size. I was always apprehensive that we might some day be 
like the families on the flats, because we always had another baby 
coming, another baby coming. A new litter of puppies was interest- 
ing but not out of the ordinary; so, likewise, the cry of a new in- 
fant never seemed unexpected. Neither excited any more curiosity 
than breakfast or dinner. No one ever told me how they were born. 
I just knew. 

I was little more than eight when I first helped wash the fourteen- 
and-a-half -pound baby after one of mother's deliveries. She had had 



BLIND GERM OF DAYS TO BE 20, 

a "terrible hard time," but father had pulled her through, and, in a 
few weeks, tired and coughing, she was going about her work, be- 
lieving as usual that her latest was the prize of perfect babies. 
(Mother's eleven children were all ten-pounders or more, and both 
she and father had a eugenic pride of race. I used to hear her say 
that not one of hers had a mark or blemish, although she had the 
utmost compassion for those who might have cleft palates, crossed 
eyes, or be "born sick." 

Late one night a woman rushed into our house, seeking protec- 
tion, clutching in her shawl a scrawny, naked baby, raw with eczema. 
When her hysteria was calmed sufficiently we learned that her hus- 
band had reeled home drunk and had thrown the wailing infant 
out into the snow. Father was all for summoning the police, but 
mother was too wise for that. She dispatched him to talk to the 
man while she gave the weeping woman a warm supper and com- 
forted her. Father returned shortly to say it was safe for her to go 
back to the multitude of other children because her husband had 
fallen asleep. Ugly and taciturn though he was I could picture him 
coming home after a hard day's work to a household racked with 
the shrieks of the suffering little thing. I could see that he too was 
pathetic and a victim ; I had sympathy for his rage. 

Put mother did lose one of her beautiful babies. Henry George 
McGlynn Higgins had been named for two of the rebel figures 
father most admired. The four-year-old was playing happily in the 
afternoon; a few hours later he was gasping for breath. Father 
heated his home-made croup kettle on the stove until it boiled, and 
then carried it steaming to be put under the blanket which rose 
like a covered wagon above the bed. As soon as he realized that 
home remedies were failing he sent for the doctor. But events moved 
too swiftly for him. We had gone to bed with no suspicion that by 
morning we should be one less. I was shocked and surprised that 
something could come along and pick one of us out of the world in 
so few hours. 

I had no time, however, to consider the bewildering verity of 
death. We all had to turn to consoling mother. Perhaps unconsciously 
she had subscribed to father's theory that the face was the mirror 
to the soul. She complained she had no picture of her lovely boy, 



30 MARGARET SANGER 

and kept reminding herself of the fine shape of his head, the wide, 
well-set eyes, the familiar contours which had been wiped forever 
from her sight, and might soon be sponged from her memory as 
well. 

Mother's grief over her lost child increased father's. Because in 
part he blamed himself, he was desperate to assuage her sorrow. The 
day after the burial he was constantly occupied in his studio, and 
when evening fell he took me affectionately by the hand asking me 
to stay up and help him on a piece of work he was about to do. I 
agreed willingly. 

About eleven o'clock we went forth together into the pitch-black 
night, father pushing ahead of him a wheelbarrow full of tools and a 
bag of plaster of Paris. We walked on and on through the stillness 
for fully two miles to the cemetery where the little brother had been 
buried. Father knew every step, but it was scary and I clung to his 
hand. 

Just beyond the gateway father hid the lighted lantern in the near- 
by bushes over a grave and told me to wait there unless I heard some- 
body coming. He expected me to be grown up at the age of ten. 
Nerves meant sickness; if any child cried out in the night it was 
merely considered "delicate." Consequently I obeyed and watched, 
shivering with cold and excitement, darting quick glances at the 
ghostly forms of some of father's monuments which loomed out of 
the darkness around me. I could hear the steady chunk, chunk, chunk 
of his pick and shovel, and the sharper sound when suddenly he struck 
the coffin. 

Father had taken it as a matter of course that I should under- 
stand and had not explained what he was about to do. But I never 
questioned his actions. I did not know there was a law against a 
man's digging up his own dead child but, even had I known, I would 
have believed that the law was wrong. 

We traveled back the long, weary way, arriving home in the early 
hours of the morning. Nothing was said to mother or to the others 
about that amazing night's adventure ; I was not told to keep silent, 
but I knew there was mystery in the air and it was no time to talk. 

For two evenings I worked with father, helping him break the 
death mask, mold and shape the cast. I remember the queer feeling 



BLIND GERM OF DAYS TO BE 3 1 

I had when I discovered some of the hair which had stuck in the 
plaster. On the third day, just after supper, father said to us all, 
"Will you come into the studio?" With tender eyes on mother he 
uncovered and presented to her the bust of the dead little boy. 

She was extraordinarily comforted. Though to me the model, per- 
fect as it was, seemed lifeless, every once in a while she entered 
the studio, took off the cloth which protected it from the dust, wept 
and was relieved, re-covered it and went on. 

Not one of us dared to utter a word of criticism about mother's 
adored and adoring husband; nevertheless her soul was harassed 
at times by his philosophy of live and let live, by his principles against 
locked doors and private property. She was merely-selfless. Often 
when one of her children was feverish she went to the kitchen pump 
for water so that it might be cooler and fresher for parched lips. 
Once, groping her way on such an errand, she stumbled over a 
tramp who had taken advantage of the unlatched door and lay 
sprawled on the floor. She rushed back to arouse father, telling him 
he must put the man out. But he only turned over on his side and 
muttered, "Oh, let him alone. The poor divil needs sleep like the 
rest of us." 

Another night mother was awakened by noises outside. "Father," 
she called, "there's somebody at the hencoop!" 

"What makes you think so?" he answered sleepily. 

"I hear the chickens. They wouldn't make a noise unless some- 
body was in there. Get up !" 

Obediently father put on his trousers and coat; not even before 
thieves would he appear in his nightshirt out of his bedroom. He 
proceeded to the kitchen door, and, holding a lamp on high, addressed 
the two men, one of whom was handing out chickens to the other, 
"Hey, you, there! What do you mean by coming to a man's house 
in the middle of the night and shtealing his chickens? What kind of 
citizens are you ?" 

This seemed to mother no time for a moral lecture. "Why don't 
you go out ?" she prodded. 

"It's raining." 

"Give me the lamp !" she demanded, exasperated. 

She started towards our nearest neighbor, splashing through the 



32 MARGARET SANGER 

little brook, getting her feet wet, calling, "Some one's in our chicken 
house !" 

Our neighbor armed himself and came running. A man with a 
gun sent the marauders scurrying up the hill. That was mother's 
philosophy. I think father fell in her estimation for a few days after 
this. She expected him to be the guardian of the home, but he was 
never that. His liberal views were so well known that our house was 
marked with the tramp's patrin of the first degree. "Always get 
something here. Never be turned away." If it happened to be pay 
day they could count on a quarter as well as a meal. 

One particular evening we were expecting father home, his pock- 
ets bulging with the money from his latest commission, but by night- 
fall he had not yet returned. When mother heard a rap at the door 
she went eagerly to open it. Two ragged strangers were standing 
there. 

"Is the boss in ?" 

"No, but I'm looking for him any minute." 

"We want something to eat." 

With no more ceremony than was customary among the knights of 
the open road they pushed through the door and made for the 
kitchen, plainly knowing their way about. 

"How dare you come into this house!" exclaimed mother indig- 
nantly. "Toss! Beauty!" she cried sharply. The fear in her voice 
brought the dogs lunging downstairs with fangs bared and hackles 
bristling. They leaped at the backs of the uninvited guests. 

Father came in a few hours later. The door was swinging wide, 
the snow was blowing in. Torn scraps of clothing, spots of blood 
were about, and mother was unconscious on the floor. He poured 
whiskey down her throat. "It was only good whiskey that brought 
you to," he often said afterwards, recalling his alarm. He used the 
same remedy to pull her through the ensuing six weeks of pneumonia. 
But he had been so thoroughly worried that his generosity towards 
tramps lessened and his largesse was curtailed. 

After this illness mother coughed more than ever and it was evi- 
dent the pines were not helping her. Father decided to move; the 
house was so obviously marked and he had to be gone so much he 
thought it unsafe for us to live alone so far away. 



Chapter Three 



BOOKS ARE THE COMPASSES 



SO we moved into town, still on the western hills. It marked the 
beginning of my adolescence, and such breaks are always dis- 
turbing. In the house in the woods we had all been children together, 
but now some of us were growing up. 

Nevertheless, there were always smaller ones to be put to bed, to 
be rocked to sleep; there were feet and knees to be scrubbed and 
hands to be washed. Although we had more space, home study some- 
times seemed to me impossible. The living room was usually occu- 
pied by the older members of the family, and the bedrooms were cold. 
I kept up in my lessons, but it was simply because I enjoyed them. 

In most schools teachers and pupils then were natural enemies, 
and the one I had in the eighth grade was particularly adept at arous- 
ing antagonism. She apparently disliked her job and the youngsters 
under her care as much as we hated her. Sarcasm was both her de- 
'fense and weapon of attack. One day in mid-June I was delayed in 
getting off for school. Well aware that being tardy was a heinous 
crime, I hurried, pulling and tugging at my first pair of kid gloves, 
which Mary had just given me. But the bell had rung two minutes 
before I walked into the room, flushed and out of breath. 

The teacher had already begun the class. She looked up at the in- 
terruption. "Well, well, Miss Higgins, so your ladyship has arrived 
at last ! Ah, a new pair of gloves ! I wonder that she even deigns to 
come to school at all." 

Giggles rippled around me as I went into tKe cloakroom and laid 

33 



34 MARGARET SANGER 

down my hat and gloves. I came back, praying the teacher would 
pay no more attention to me, but as I walked painfully to my seat 
she continued repeating with variations her mean comments. Even 
when I sat down she did not stop. I tried to think of something else, 
tried not to listen, tried to smile with the others. I endured it as long 
as I could, then took out my books, pyramiding arithmetic, gram- 
mar, and speller, strapped them up; rose, and left. 

Mother was amazed when I burst in on her. "I will never go back 
to that school again !" I exclaimed dramatically. "I have finished for- 
ever ! I'll go to jail, I'll work, I'll starve, I'll die ! But back to that 
school and teacher I will never go !" 

As older brothers and sisters drifted home in the evening, they 
were as horrified as mother. "But you have only two weeks more," 
they expostulated. 

"I don't care if it's only an hour. I will not go back!" 

When it became obvious that I would stick to my point, mother 
seemed glad to have me to help her. I was thorough and strong and 
could get through a surprising amount of work in no time. But the 
rest of the family was seriously alarmed. The next few months were 
filled with questions I could not answer. "What can you ever be with- 
out an education?" "Are you equipped to earn a living?" "Is factory 
life a pleasant prospect? If you don't go back to school, you'll surely 
end there." 

"All right. I'll go to work!" I announced defiantly. Work, even 
in the factory, meant money, and money meant independence. I had 
no rebuttal to their arguments; I was acting on an impulse that 
transcended reason, and must have recognized that any explanation 
as to my momentous decision would sound foolish. 

Then suddenly father, mother, my second older sister Nan, and 
Mary, who had been summoned to a family council, tried other tac- 
tics. I was sent for two weeks to Chautauqua, there to take courses, 
hear lectures from prominent speakers, listen to music. This was de- 
signed to stimulate my interest in education and dispel any idea I 
might have of getting a job. 

My impulse had been misconstrued. I was not rebelling against 
education as such, but only against that particular school and that 
particular teacher. When fall drew near and the next session was at 



BOOKS ARE THE COMPASSES 35 

hand I was still reiterating that I would not go back, although I still 
had no answer to Nan's repeated, "What are you going to do ?" 

Nan was perhaps the most inspiring of all my brothers and sisters. 
The exact contrary to father, 'she wanted us all to conform and was 
in tears if we did not. To her, failure in this respect showed a lack 
of breeding. Yet even more important than conformity was knowl- 
edge, which was the basis for all true culture. She herself wanted to 
write, and had received prizes for stories from St. Nicholas and the 
Youth's Companion. But the family was too dependent upon the 
earnings of the older girls, and she was obliged to postpone college 
and her equally ardent desire to study sculpture. She became a trans- 
lator of French and German until these aspirations could be fulfilled. 

At the time of my mutiny Nan was especially disturbed. "You 
won't be able to get anywhere without an education," she stated 
firmly. She and Mary, joining forces, together looked for a school, 
reasonable enough for their purses, but good enough academically 
to prepare me for Cornell. Private education was not so expensive as 
today, and families of moderate means could afford it. My sisters 
selected Claverack College and Hudson River Institute, about three 
miles from the town of Hudson in the Catskill Mountains., Here, in 
one of the oldest coeducational institutions in the country, the Meth- 
odist farmers of the Dutch valley enrolled their sons and daughters ; 
unfortunately it is now gone and with it the healthy spirit it typified. 
One sister paid my tuition and the other bought my books and 
clothes ; for my board and room I was to work. , 
j Going away to school was epochal in my life. The self-contained 
family group was suddenly multiplied to five hundred strangers, all 
living and studying under one roof. The girls' dormitory was at one 
end, the boys' at the other, but we shared the same dining room and 
sat together in classes ; occasionally a boy could call on a girl in the 
reception hall if a teacher were present. I liked best the attitude of the 
teachers; they were not so much policemen as companions and 
friends, and their instruction was more individual and stimulating 
than at Corning. 

I did not have money to do things the other girls did — go off 
for week-ends or house-parties — but waiting on table or washing 
dishes did not set me apart. The work was far easier than at home, 



36 MARGARET SANGER 

and a girl was pretty well praised for doing her share. At first the stu- 
dents all appeared to me uninteresting and lacking in initiative. I never 
found the same imaginative quality I was used to in my family, but 
as certain ones began to stand out I discovered they had personali- 
ties of their own. 

I had been at Claverack only a few days and was still feeling home- 
sick when in the hall one morning I encountered the most beautiful 
creature I had ever seen. Long hair flying from her shoulders, she 
was so slender and wraithlike that she seemed unreal. I have never 
since been so moved by human loveliness as I was by Esther's. I 
cried at night because I sensed it was something I could not reach. 
Even her clothes were unlike all others. Many girls envied their 
taste and quality, but I knew they belonged to her of right. Of every 
book I had read she was the heroine come alive. 

Worlds apart though we were in tradition, looks, behavior, ex- 
perience, Esther and I had the same romantic outlook. Having as- 
pirations for the theater, she remained only one year and then left 
to attend Charles Frohman's dramatic school. I had been too over- 
powered by my admiration for her to be happy in it, and it kept me 
from caring particularly about anyone else. Nevertheless, I am con- 
vinced that in any interchange of affection the balance is unequal; 
one must give and the other be able to receive. My second year I was 
the recipient of devotion from a younger girl similar to that I had 
showered upon Esther. The loyalty and praise of Amelia Stuart, 
my laughing friend, fed all the empty spaces in my heart. She was 
gay and clever, a Methodist by upbringing but not by conviction. 
Each Sunday afternoon, given over to the reading of the Bible, we 
received permission to study together in my room, and there occu- 
pied ourselves dutifully, I in mending and darning, and she reading 
aloud, but interspersing solemn passages with ridiculous exaggera- 
tions. What was intended to be a serious exercise of the spirit was 
turned into merriment. 

My friendship with these two girls has been interrupted, but never 
broken. 

Very shortly after my arrival at Claverack I had been infected 
by that indefinable, nebulous quality called school spirit, and before 
long was happily in the thick of activities. Assembly was held in the 



BOOKS ARE THE COMPASSES 37 

chapel every morning, during which we all in turn had to render 
small speeches and essays, or recite selections of poetry. I had a vivid 
feeling of how things should be said, putting more dramatic fervor 
into certain lines than my limited experience of the theater would 
seem to explain, and on this account the elocution teacher encouraged 
me to have faith in my talents. 

Every girl, I suppose, at some time or other wants to be an 
actress. Mary had taken me to the theater now and then, once when 
Maude Adams was playing Juliet to John Drew's Romeo, and had 
gone to some pains to explain to me the difference between artistes 
like Mary Anderson or Julia Marlowe and mere beauty as such. She 
would not have been pleased at my seeing Lillian Russell, which I 
did during a Christmas holiday in New York; Lillian Russell was 
too glamorous and, furthermore, she was said to have accepted 
jewelry from men. 

One vacation I announced to my family that I was thinking of a 
stage career. Disapproval was evident on all sides. Father pooh- 
poohed ; Mary alone held out hope. She said I had ability and should 
go to dramatic school in New York as soon as I had finished Claver- 
ack. She would apply immediately to Charles Frohman to have me 
understudy Maude Adams, whom I at least was said to resemble 
physically — small and with the same abundant red-brown hair. Lack- 
ing good features I took pride only in my thick, long braids. I used 
to decorate them with ribbons and admire the effect in the mirror. 

The application was made; I was photographed in various poses 
with and without hats. A return letter from the school management 
came, enclosing a form to be filled in with name, address, age, height, 
weight, color of hair, eyes, and skin. 

r But additional data were required as to the exact length of the 
legs, both right and left, as well as measurements of ankle, calf, knee, 
and thigh. I knew my proportions in a general way. Those were the 
days when every pack of cigarettes carried a bonus in the shape of a 
pictured actress, plump and well- formed. In the gymnasium the girls 
had compared sizes with these beauties. But to see such personal in- 
formation go coldly down on paper to be sent off to strange men was 
unthinkable. I had expected to have to account for the quality of my 
voice, for my ability to sing, to play, for grace, agility, character, and 



38 MARGARET SANGER 

morals. Since I could not see what legs had to do with being a sec- 
ond Maude Adams, I did not fill in the printed form nor send the 
photographs, but just put them all away, and turned to other fields 
where something beside legs was to count. 

Chapel never bored me. I had come to dislike ritual in many of 
the churches I had visited — kneeling for prayer, sitting for instruc- 
tion, standing for praise. But in a Methodist chapel anyone could 
get up and express a conviction. Young sprouts here were thinking 
and discussing the Bible, religion, and politics. Should the individual 
be submerged in the state? If you had a right to free thought as an 
individual, should you give it up to the church ? 

We scribbled during study periods, debated in the evenings. With- 
out always digesting them but with great positiveness I carried over 
many of the opinions I had heard expounded at home. To most of 
the boys and girls those Saturday mornings when the more ambitious 
efforts were offered represented genuine torture. They stuttered and 
stammered painfully. I was just as nervous — more so probably. 
Nevertheless, I was so ardent for suffrage, for anything which would 
"emancipate" women and humanity, that I was eager to proclaim 
theories of my own. 

Father was still the spring from which I drank, and I sent long 
letters home, getting in reply still longer ones, filled with ammuni- 
tion about the historical background of the importance of women 
— Helen of Troy, Ruth, Cleopatra, Poppaea, famous queens, women 
authors and poets. 

When news spread that I was to present my essay, "Women's 
Rights," the boys, following the male attitude which most people 
have forgotten but which every suffragette well remembers, jeered 
and drew cartoons of women wearing trousers, stiff collars, and 
smoking huge cigars. Undeterred, I was spurred on to think up new 
arguments. I studied and wrote as never before, stealing away to 
the cemetery and standing on the monuments over the graves. Each 
day in the quiet of the dead I repeated and repeated that speech out 
loud. What an essay it was ! 

"Votes for Women" banners were not yet flying, and this early 
faint bleating of mine aroused little enthusiasm. I turned then to an 
equally stern subject. The other students had automatically accepted 



BOOKS ARE THE COMPASSES 39 

the cause of solid money. I espoused free silver. At Chautauqua I had 
heard echoes of those first notes sounded by Bryan for the working 
classes. The spirit of humanitarianism in industry had been growing 
and swelling, but it was still deep buried. I believe any great con- 
cept must be present in the mass consciousness before any one figure 
can tap it and set it free on its irresistible way. 

I had not seen the "Boy Orator of the Platte," but the country 
was ringing with his words, "You shall not press down upon the 
brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind 
upon a cross of gold." These rich and sonorous phrases made me 
realize the importance of clothing ideas in fine language. Far more, 
however, they struck a solemn chord within me. I, also, in an ob- 
scure and unformed way, wanted to help grasp Utopia from the 
skies and plant it on earth. But what to do and where to start I 
did not know. 

Due to my "advanced ideas," for a time, at least, I am sorry to 
say, it was chiefly the grinds with whom I "walked in Lovers' Lane," 
nodding wisely and answering their earnest aspirations with pro- 
found advice. But this did not last. Soon I was going through the 
usual boy and girl romances ; each season brought a new one. I took 
none of them very seriously, but adroitly combined flirtatiousness 
with the conviction that marriage was something towards which I 
must develop. Therefore I turned the vague and tentative suggestions 
of my juvenile beaus by saying, "I would never think of jumping into 
marriage without definite preparation and study of its responsibili- 
ties." Practically no women then went into professions; matrimony 
was the only way out. It seems ages ago. 

Various pranks occurred at Claverack, such as taking walks with 
boys out of bounds and going forbidden places for tea. Towards the 
end of my last year I thought up the idea that several of us should 
slip out through the window and down to the village dance hall 
where our special admirers would meet us. About eleven-thirty, in 
the midst of the gayety, in walked our principal, Mr. Flack, together 
with the preceptress who had come for the "ladies." We were all 
marched back to school, uneasy but silent. 

The next morning I received a special invitation to call at The 
Office. I entered. Mr. Flack, a small, slight, serious, student type of 



40 MARGARET SANGER 

man, with a large head and high brow, was standing with his back 
to me. I sat down. He gave me no greeting but kept on at his books. 
To all appearances he did not know I was there. Then, without look- 
ing around, he said, "Miss Higgins, don't you feel rather ashamed 
of yourself for getting those girls into trouble last night, by taking 
them out and making them break the rules ? They may even have to 
be sent home." 

Although surprised that he should have known I was the one re- 
sponsible, I could not deny it, but it flashed across my mind at first 
that someone must have told him. He went on with rapid flow, 
almost as though talking to himself, "I've watched you ever since 
you came and I don't need to be told that you must have been the 
ringleader. Again and again I've noticed your influence over others. 
I want to call your attention to this, because I know you're going to 
use it in the future. You must make your choice — whether to get 
yourself and others into difficulty, or else guide yourself and others 
into constructive activities which will do you and them credit." 

I do not quite recall what else he said, but I have never forgotten 
going out of his room that day. This could not exactly be called a 
turning point in my life^ but from then on I realized more strongly 
than before that there was a something within myself which could 
and should be kept under my control and direction. 

Long afterwards I wrote to thank Mr. Flack for his wisdom in 
offering guidance instead of harsh discipline. He died a few years 
later, and I was glad I had been able to place a rose in his hand rather 
than on his grave. 

I spent three happy years at Claverack. The following season I de- 
cided to try my hand at teaching, A, $hen a lady-like thing to do. A 
position was open to me in the first grade of a new public school in 
southern New Jersey. The majority of the pupils — Poles, Hun- 
garians, Swedes — coulii not speak English. In they came regularly. 
I was beside myself to know what to do with eighty- four children 
who could not understand a word I said. I loved those small, black- 
haired and tow-headed urchins who became bored with sitting and, 
on their own, began stunts to entertain themselves. But I was so tired 
at the end of the day that I often lay down before dressing for dinner 
and awakened the next morning barely in time to start the routine. 



BOOKS ARE THE COMPASSES 41 

In very short order I became aware of the fact that teaching was not 
merely a job, it was a profession, and training was necessary if you 
were to do it well. I was not suited by temperament, and therefore 
had no right to this vocation.fi had been struggling for only a brief 
while when father summoned me home to nurse mother. ) 

She was weak and pale and the high red spots on her cheek bones 
stood out startlingly against her white face. Although she was now 
spitting blood when she coughed we still expected her to live on for- 
ever. She had been ill so long; this was just another attack among 
many. Father carried her from room to room, and tried desperately 
to devise little comforts. We shut the doors and windows to keep out 
any breath of the raw March air, and in the stuffy atmosphere we 
toiled over her bed. 

(In an effort to be more efficient in caring for mother I tried to findv 
out something about consumption by borrowing medical books from \ 
the library of the local doctor, who was a friend of the family, and in \ 
doing this became so interested in medicine that I decided definitely I 
I would study to be an M.D. \Vhen I went back for more volumes / 
and announced my decision the doctor gave them to me, but smiled/ 
tolerantly, "You'll probably get over it." 

I had been closely confined for a long time when I was invited to 
Buffalo for the Easter holidays to meet again one of the boys by 
whom I had been beaued at Claverack. Mother insisted that I needed 
a vacation. Mary and Nan were both there ; I could stay with them, 
and we planned a pleasant trip to Niagara Falls for the day. 

With me out of the way mother sent off the little children one by 
one on some pretext or another. She had more difficulty with father. 
The fire bricks in the stove had split and she told him he must go to 
town and get new ones. Much against his will, because he was vaguely 
unquiet, he started for the foundry. He had left only because mother 
seemed to want it so much, but when he had walked a few blocks, he 
found he could not go on. For some Celtic mystic reason of his own 
he turned abruptly around and came back to the house. Mother was 
gasping in death. All the family hated scenes, she most of all. She 
had known she was to die and wanted to be alone. 

It was a folk superstition that a consumptive who survived through 
the month of March would live until November. .Mother died on 



42 MARGARET SANGER 

the thirty-first of the month, leaving father desolate and inconsol- 
able. I came flying home. The house was silent and he hardly spoke. 
Suddenly the stillness of the night was broken by a wailing and Toss 
was found with his paws on the coffin, mourning and howling — the 
most poignant and agonizing sound I had ever heard. 

[I had to take mother's place — manage the finances, order the 
meals, pay the debts. There was nothing left for my clothing nor for 
any outside diversions. All that could be squeezed out by making 
this or that do had to go for shoes or necessities for the younger 
brothers. Mend, patch, sew as you would, there was a limit to the 
endurance of trousers, and new ones had to be purchased. 

To add to my woes, father seemed to me, who was sensitive to 
criticism, suddenly metamorphosed from a loving, gentle, benevolent 
parent into a most aggravating, irritating tyrant ; nobody in any fairy 
tale I had ever read was quite so cruel. He who had given us the 
world in which to roam now apparently wanted to put us behind 
prison bars. His unreasonableness was not directed towards the boys, 
who were in bed as soon as lessons were done, but towards his 
daughters, Ethel and me. Whatever we did was wrong. He objected 
particularly to young men. 

Ethel was receiving the concentrated attention of Jack Byrne. Fa- 
ther in scolding her said she should mix more. My beaus were a little 
older than the ones I had had at school, and more earnest in their 
intentions. Though not one really interested me — their conversation 
seemed flat, consisting of foolish questions and smart, silly replies 
— father scolded me also about them, "Why aren't you serious like 
your sister? Can't you settle yourself to one? Do you have to have 
somebody different every evening?" 

Messages were coming to me from a young man going West, post- 
marked Chicago or San Francisco. These daily letters and some- 
times telegrams as well, were not father's idea of wooing. What could 
anyone have to say every day? To his way of thinking, a decent 
man came to the house and did his talking straight; he sat around 
with the family and got acquainted. Father said, 'That fellow's a 
scoundrel. He's too worldly. He's not even known in town." 

We had to ask permission whether Tom or Jack or Henry could 
call. Without reason or explanation father said, "No," and that was 



BOOKS ARE THE COMPASSES 43 

an end to it. If we went out, we had to be back at ten and give an 
account of ourselves. 

Then came the climax. Ethel and I had gone to an open-air con- 
cert. On the stroke of ten we were a full block away from home 
running with all our might. When we arrived, three minutes late, 
the house was in utter darkness — not a sight nor sound of a living 
creature anywhere. We banged and knocked. We tried the front 
door, the back, and the side, then again the front. It opened part 
way; father looked out, reached forth a hand and caught Ethel's 
arm, saying, "This outrageous behavior is not your fault. Come in." 
With that he pulled her inside, and the door slammed, leaving me in 
the dark, stunned and bewildered. I did not know this monster. - 

Hurt beyond words, I sat down on the steps, worrying not only 
about this night but about the next day and the next, concerned 
over the children left at home with this new kind of father. I was 
sure if I waited long enough he would come out for me, but it was a 
chilly evening in October. I had no wrap, and began to grow very 
cold. 

I walked away from the house, trying to decide where I should go 
and what I should do. I could not linger on the streets indefinitely, 
with the possibility of encountering some tipsy factory hand or drum- 
mer passing through. At first there seemed no one to turn to. Finally, 
exhausted by stress of emotion, I went to the home of the girl who 
had been with us at the concert. She had not yet gone to bed, and her 
mother welcomed me so hospitably that I shall be eternally grateful. 
The next morning she lent me carfare to go to Elmira, where I had 
friends with whom I could stay. 

Meantime father had found me gone. He had dressed and tramped 
up and down First Street, searching every byway, inquiring whether 
I had been seen. When he had returned at daybreak to find me still 
missing he had sent word to Mary, who received his message at 
almost the same time as one from me, telling her not to worry ; I was 
all right. Both of them urged me to come back to Corning, and in a 
few days I did so, taking up again my responsibilities. Father and I 
tried to talk it over, but we could not meet on the old ground; be- 
tween us a deep silence had fallen. 

Father had almost stopped expounding; instead, he was reading 



44 MARGARET SANGER 

more. Debs had come on his horizon, and the Socialist papers crop- 
ping up all over the country were appearing in the house. From the 
Free Library, which he had helped to establish years earlier, he was 
borrowing Spencer, who was modern for that time, and other books 
on sociology. 

I had given up encouraging young men to see me, but I, too, was 
patronizing the library. My books were fiction. "All nonsense," fa- 
ther snorted at the mention of such titles as Graustark, Prisoners of 
Hope, or Three Musketeers. The word "novel" was still shocking 
to many people, and he classed them all as "love stories." "Read 
to cultivate and uplift your mind. Read what will benefit you in the 
battle of life," he admonished. But I continued my escape from the 
daily humdrum to revel in romances, devouring them in the evenings 
and hiding them under the mattress during the day. 

One noon when I was waiting for the children to come in to 
lunch I was buried in David Harum, finding it very funny, and did 
not hear father enter. He stood ominously in the doorway. I should 
have felt trapped, but, instead, without warning and without reason, 
the old love flamed up again. I laughed and laughed. I was no longer 
afraid nor did I care for his scowls or his silly old notions. The 
long silence was broken. 

"Do listen to this." And I started reading. The frown began to 
melt away and soon father too was chuckling. This was the first 
laughter that had been heard in that dreary household since mother's 
death. The book disappeared into his room, and soon thereafter he 
was caught seeking more of "that nonsense." 

At last I realized why father had been so different. He had been 
lonely for mother, lonely for her love, and doubtless missed her 
ready appreciation of his own longings and misgivings. Then, too, 
he had always before depended on her to understand and direct us. 
He was probably a trifle jealous, though not consciously, because he 
considered jealousy an animal trait far beneath him, and refused to 
recognize it in himself. Nevertheless, beaus had been sidetracking 
the affections of his little girls. So oppressed had he been by his sense 
of responsibility that he had slipped in judgment and in so doing 
slid into the small-town rut of propriety. His belated discipline, 



BOOKS ARE THE COMPASSES 45 

caused by worry and anxiety, was merely an attempt to guide his 
children. 

I, however, considered the time had passed for such guidance. I 
had to step forth by myself along the experimental path of adult- 
hood. Though the immediate occasion for reading medical books had 
ceased with mother's death, I had never, during these months, lost 
my deep conviction that perhaps she might have been saved had I had 
sufficient knowledge of medicine. This was linked up with my latent 
desire to be of service in the world. The career of a physician seemed 
to fulfill all my requirements., I could not at the moment see how the 
gap in education from Claverack to medical school was to be bridged. 
Nevertheless, I could at least make a start with nursing, j 
j But father, though he proclaimed his belief in perfect independ- 
ence of thought and mind, could not approve nursing as a profession, 
even when I told him that some of the nicest girls were going into 
it. "Well, they won't be nice long," he growled. . Tt's no sort of work 
for girls to be doing." .My argument that he himself had taught us 
to help other people had no effect. 

Father's notions, however, were not going to divert me from my 
intention; no matter how peaceful the home atmosphere had be- 
come, still I had to get out and try my wings. For six months more 
we jogged along, then, just a year after mother had died, Esther 
asked me to visit her in New York. I really wanted to train in the 
city, but her mother knew someone on the board of the White Plains 
Hospital, which was just initiating a school. There I was accepted as 
a probationer. 



Chapter Four 



DARKNESS THERE AND NOTHING MORE 



THE old White Plains Hospital, not at all like a modern insti- 
tution, had been a three-storied manor house, long deserted 
because two people had once been found mysteriously dead in it 
and thereafter nobody would rent or buy. The hospital board, scoff- 
ing at superstition, had gladly purchased it at the low price to which 
it had been reduced. However, in spite of rearrangements and re- 
decorating, many people in White Plains went all the way to the 
Tarrytown Hospital rather than enter the haunted portals. 

Once set in spacious grounds the building was still far back from 
the road ; a high wall immediately behind it shut off the view of the 
next street and nothing could be seen beyond except the roof of what 
had been the stable. The surrounding tall trees made it shadowy even 
in the daytime. To reach the office you had to cross a broad pillared 
veranda. Parlor and sitting room had been thrown together for the 
male ward, and an operating room had been tacked on to the rear. 
The great wide stairway of fumed oak, lighted at night by low- 
turned gas jets, swept up through the lofty ceiling. On the second 
floor were the female ward and a few private rooms. The dozen or 
so nurses slept in the made-over servants' quarters under the gam- 
brel roof. 

Student nurses in large modern hospitals have little idea what our 
life was like in a small one thirty-five years ago. The single bath- 
room on each floor was way at the back.^ We did not have a resident 

46 



DARKNESS THERE AND NOTHING MORE 47 

interne, and, consequently, had to depend mainly upon our own 
judgment. Since we had no electricity, we could not ring a bell and 
have our needs supplied, and had to use our legs for elevators. A pro- 
bationer had to learn to make dressings, bandages, mix solutions, 
and toil over sterilizing. She put two inches of water in the wash- 
boiler, laid a board across the bricks placed in the bottom, and bal- 
anced the laundered linen and gauze on top. Then, clapping on the 
lid, she set the water to boiling briskly, watched the clock, and when 
the prescribed number of minutes had elapsed the sterilizing was 
over. 

The great self-confidence with which I entered upon my duties 
soon received a slight shock. One of our cases was an old man from 
the County Home. He complained chiefly of pains in his leg and, 
since his condition was not very serious, the superintendent of nurses 
left him one afternoon in my care. This was my first patient. When 
I heard the clapper of his little nickeled bell, I hurried with a pro- 
fessional air to his bedside. 

"Missy, will you please bandage up my sore leg? It does me so 
much good." 

Having just had my initial lesson in bandaging, I was elated at 
this opportunity to try my skill... I set to work with great precision, 
and, when I had finished, congratulated myself on a neat job, ad- 
miring the smooth white leg. My first entry went on his record sheet. 

A little later the superintendent, in making her rounds, regarded 
the old man perplexedly. 

"Why have you got your leg bandaged?" 

"I asked the nurse to do it for me." 

"Why that leg? It's the other one that hurts." . 

"Oh, she was so kind I didn't want to stop her." 

I bowed my head in embarrassment, but I was young and eager, 
and it did not stay bowed long. 

Within a short period I considered myself thoroughly inured to 
what many look upon as the unpleasant aspects of nursing ; the sight 
of blood never made me squeamish and I had watched operations, 
even on the brain, with none of the usual sick giddiness. Then 
one day the driver of a Macy delivery wagon, who had fallen off the 
seat, was brought in with a split nose. I was holding the basin for 



48 MARGARET SANGER 

the young doctor who was stitching it up, when one of the other 
nurses said something to tease him. He dropped his work, leaving 
the needle and cat-gut thread sticking across the patient's nose, and 
chased her out of the room and down the hall. The patient, painless 
under a local anesthetic, gazed mildly after them; but the idea 
that doctor and nurse could be so callous as to play jokes horri- 
fied me.\ 

When pursuer and pursued returned they found me in a heap on 
the floor, the basin tipped over beside me, instruments and sponges 
scattered everywhere. The patient was still sitting quietly waiting 
for all the foolishness to stop. I am glad to say this was the one and 
only time I ever fainted on duty. 

The training, rigid though it was, would have been far less diffi- 
cult had it not been for the truly diabolical head nurse. In the morn- 
ing she was all smiles, so saintly that you could almost glimpse the 
halo around her head. But as the day wore on the demon in her ap- 
peared. She could always think up extra things for you to do to keep 
you from your regular afternoon two hours off. This was particu- 
larly hard on me because I had developed tubercular glands and was 
running a temperature. In my second year I was operated on, and 
two weeks later assigned to night duty, where I stayed for three 
awful months. 

My worst tribulation came during this period. People then seldom 
went to hospitals with minor ailments ; our patients were commonly 
the very sick, requiring a maximum of attention. There was no or- 
derly and I could use only my left hand because my right shoulder 
was still bandaged. I took care of admissions, entered case histories, 
and, when sharp bells punctuated the waiting stillness, sometimes one 
coming before I had time to answer the first, I pattered hurriedly up 
and down the three flights, through the shadows relieved only by the 
faint red glow from the gas jets. I suppose adventures were inevita- 
ble. 

One night an Italian was picked up on the street in a state of 
almost complete exhaustion, and brought to the hospital. He was so 
ill with suspected typhoid that he should have had a "special," but in- 
stead he was placed in the ward. An old leather couch stood across 
the windows, and whenever a pause came in my duties I lay down. 



DARKNESS THERE AND NOTHING MORE 49 

From there I could keep an eye on my new patient. Sick as he was 
he insisted on making the long trip through the ward to the bath- 
room. I could not explain how unwise this was, because he could 
not understand a word of English. He must have reeled out of his 
bed between thirty and forty times. 

Just as the early spring dawn came creeping in the window be- 
hind me I grew drowsy. I was on the point of dozing off when 
some premonition warned me and I opened my eyelids enough to see 
the man reach under his pillow, take something out cautiously, glide 
from his bed. Spellbound I watched him slithering soft-footedly as 
he edged his way towards me. I seemed to be hypnotized with sleep 
and could not stir. He came nearer and nearer with eyes fixed, hands 
behind him. Suddenly I snapped into duty, arose quickly, ordered 
him back to bed, and ran ahead to straighten his sheets and pillows, 
not realizing my danger until he loomed over me, his knife in his 
hand. Before he could thrust I grabbed his arm and held it. Though 
I was small-boned I had good muscles, and he was very ill. 

Meanwhile, another patient snatched up his bell and rang, and rang 
and rang. Nobody answered. The nurses were too far away to hear ; 
the other patients in the ward were unable to help me. But the man 
quickly used up what little energy he had, and I was able to get the 
knife from him, push him back in bed, and take his temperature. I as- 
sumed he had suddenly become delirious. 

About seven o'clock I answered a summons to the front door and 
found three policemen who wanted to know whether we had an 
Italian patient. "Indeed we have," I answered feelingly and called 
the superintendent. 

When the red tape was unwound, I learned that my Italian be- 
longed to a gang which had been hiding in a cave between Tarry- 
town and White Plains, holding up passers-by. Amongst them they 
had committed five murders. The others had all been hunted down, 
but this man's collapse had temporarily covered his whereabouts. The 
attack on me had apparently been merely incidental to his attempt at 
escape through the open window behind me. He was carried off to 
the County Hospital Jail, and I was not sorry to see him go. 

After this incident an orderly was employed and, though he was 
allowed to sleep at night, it was reassuring to know he could be called 



5<D MARGARET SANGER 

in an emergency. The emergency soon arose. A young man of about 
twenty-five, of well-to-do parents, was admitted as an alcoholic. I re- 
member that I was impressed by the softness of his handshake when 
I greeted him. He had the first symptoms of delirium tremens but he 
was now perfectly conscious and needed no more than routine at- 
tention. 

Sometime in the night the new arrival asked me to get him a drink 
of water. When I came back into the room and offered it to him he 
knocked me into the corner ten feet away. As my head banged 
against the wall, he leaped out of bed after me and reached down for 
my throat. Though half -stunned and off my feet, I yet had more 
strength than the man whose flabby muscles refused to obey his will. 
The patient in the adjoining bed rang and in a few moments the 
orderly came to my assistance. Between us we got the poor crazed 
youth into a strait jacket. The doctor who was summoned could do 
nothing and in the morning the young man mercifully died. 

To differentiate between things real and things imaginary was not 
always easy at nighttime. One morning about two o'clock I was 
writing my case histories in the reception office on the ground floor 
just off the veranda. Both window and curtain behind my back were 
up about ten inches to let in the cool, moist air. Abruptly I had a feel- 
ing that eyes were staring at me. I could not have explained why ; I 
had heard no sound, but I was certain some human being was some- 
where about. Anybody who had come on legitimate business would 
have spoken. Perhaps it was another patient with a knife. Should I 
sit still ? Should I look behind me ? 

I turned my head to the window, and there an ugly, grinning face 
with a spreading, black mustache was peering in at me. It might 
have been disembodied; all I could see was this extraordinary face, 
white against the inky background. It was not a patient, not anyone 
in my charge. Relief was immediate and action automatic. I seized 
the long window pole, twice as tall as I, dashed to the outer door, and 
shooed him off the veranda. He ran for the outer gate while I bran- 
dished my weapon after him. 

Such instantaneous responses must have been the result of having 
in childhood sent fears about their business before they could gather 
momentum. Now I could usually act without having to think very 



DARKNESS THERE AND NOTHING MORE 5 1 

much about them or be troubled in retrospect. They were all in the 
day's work of the night nurse. 

Probably the fact that I was low in vitality made me more sus- 
ceptible to mental than physical influences. Realistic doctors and stern 
head nurses tried to keep tales of the old house from the probation- 
ers, but not very successfully. When the colored patients could not 
sleep they used to tell us weird stories, and with rolling eyes solemnly 
affirmed they were true. One old darky woman, hearing the hoot owls 
begin their mournful "too-whoo, too-whoo," would sit straight up 
in her bed and whisper, "Suppose dat callin' me? Hit's callin' some- 
one in dis hospital." 

Again and again after the owls' hooting either somebody in the 
hospital died, or was brought in to die from an accident. Reason told 
me this was pure coincidence, but it began to get on my nerves. 

And then stranger events, for which I could find no explanation, 
followed. Once when I was making my rounds a little after midnight, 
I turned into the room occupied by the tubercular valet of a member 
of the Iselin family. I had expected him to be sleeping quietly be- 
cause he was merely there to rest up before being sent back home to 
England, but he was awake and asked for ice. I started for the re- 
frigerator, which was two flights down in the cellar. But at the top 
of the stairs I suddenly stopped short — "One — Two — Three!" I 
heard dull, distinct knocks directly under the stairway. 

Not one, single, tangible thing near by could have made those 
sounds. In the space of a few seconds I took an inventory of the im- 
portance of my life as compared to the proper care of my patient. I had 
to walk deliberately down those steps, not knowing what might be 
lying in wait for me below. As I stepped on the first tread the same 
knocks came again — "One — Two — Three!" 

I tried to hurry but it seemed to me that each foot had tons of 
iron attached to it. The little red devils of night lights blinked at me 
and seemed to make the shadows thicker in the corners. But nothing 
clutched me from the dim and ghostly hall. I got down those steps 
somehow and passed through the dining room into the kitchen. There 
I paused again. Should I take a butcher knife with me? "No, I won't 
do that," I answered myself resolutely, and started for the cellar 
stairs. 



52 MARGARET SANGER 

For the third time came the knocking. Glancing to right and left, 
my back against the dark, I crept down, reached the refrigerator, 
broke off some chunks of ice with trembling hands, put them in a 
bowl, steeled myself while I chopped them into still finer pieces, and 
set out on the return, my feet much lighter going up than down. 

I had been away only a brief while altogether, but the patient, for 
no apparent cause, had had a hemorrhage, and died in a few minutes. 

Many times after that I heard these nocturnal sounds, usually 
overhead. They began to seem more like footsteps — "tap, tap, tap, 
tap," — very quick and a bit muffled. Soon I was not sleeping well in 
the daytime. 

One morning I asked at breakfast table, "Who was walking around 
last night?" 

"I wasn't." "Not I." "Certainly not me," came a chorus. "What 
makes you think someone was up?" 

"I distinctly heard footsteps the full length of the third floor." 

"What time?" 

"Around four o'clock." 

But nobody admitted to having been up. "Then one of you must 
have been walking in your sleep," I insisted. 

The nurse who had preceded me on night duty timidly contributed, 
"I always heard somebody. I didn't want to say anything about it 
for fear you'd think I was queer." 

Towards morning of the very next night when I was in the sec- 
ond floor ward, I heard the patter again above my head. I ran up- 
stairs to the nurses' quarters as fast as I could and looked down the 
corridor. Every door was tight shut. I tore down two flights to the 
first floor. The noise came once more above me. Back to the second 
floor. All patients were in their beds. I asked the only wakeful one, 
"Did you get up just now ?" 

"No." 

"Did anybody else get up?" 

"No." 

Some nights went by quietly. But I heard the noises often enough 
to become truly concerned for fear I might be imagining things. I 
said to one of the older nurses, "I'm going to wake you up and see 
whether you hear them too." 



DARKNESS THERE AND NOTHING MORE 53 

"I'll sit up with you," she offered. 

"No, I'll call you. They never come until almost morning." 

The next time, at the first tap, I hurried to her room, shook her 
awake, led her to the floor below, "There, do you hear it?" 

Her expression was confirmation enough. 

Leaving her I raced down another flight, and waited. In a mo- 
ment the "Tap, tap, tap, tap" came again from overhead. Up I went. 
She said she had heard it all right but it had come from over her 
head. At least my senses were not playing me tricks. My accounts 
were given greater credence, and other nurses sometimes interrupted 
their slumbers to listen. 

One of my companions told a young and intelligent doctor on the 
staff that I had better be taken off night duty before I had a nervous 
breakdown. Though he thought this was girlish nonsense, he could 
see I was being seriously affected, and anyhow the strain of three 
continuous months at such a hard task was far too much. Another 
nurse relieved me. 

After my second glandular operation I was placed in one of the 
private rooms on the upper floor. I had not come through very well, 
and this same doctor remained in the hospital all night to be on call. 
Being restless, I woke up, only to hear the identical noises which had 
haunted me for so long. I called him and exclaimed, "There it is. 
Don't you hear it?" 

He did, but confidently he strode upstairs to the nurses' floor. I 
knew he would find nothing. When he came back, I asked, "Did you 
see anyone?" 

"No. Apparently everybody was asleep. I looked in all the rooms." 

Immediately the raps came again. He moved a little faster to get 
downstairs. In a few minutes he put his head back in the door. 
"You're in bed? You haven't been up?" I assured him I had not 
moved, knowing well he must have heard them as always I had, 
from above. 

Though still believing somebody was walking around the place, 
the doctor by this time was determined to get to the bottom of the 
mystery, and returned every night for a week. But the sound was a 
will-o'-the-wisp. He never could catch up with it. He was so eager 
to exhaust every possibility that he even brought the matter be- 



54 MARGARET SANGER 

fore the board. One of them patronizingly explained that it was 
probably the echo from some rat in the walls ; they were in the habit 
of dismissing thus lightly the superstitions which clung about the old 
house. 

The doctor continued his detective work until one day he appeared 
in great good humor. From the rear windows he pointed to the roof 
which rose beyond the high back wall. "I've found it. That stable is 
built on the same timbers as this house. When some horse grows 
restless towards morning he stamps and the vibration is carried 
through them underground to this building. Now do you believe in 
ghosts ?" 

Life was by no means so serious as all this sounds. Amelia had 
followed me into the hospital and we continued our gay times to- 
gether. For that matter nursing itself often presented amusing as- 
pects. The supply of registered nurses was very small, and in our last 
year of training we were sent out on private cases, thus seeing both 
the highlights and lowlights of life, which prepared us well in ex- 
perience. 

One which had romantic overtones took place immediately after 
Howard Willett had transferred his house-party from Aiken, South 
Carolina, to Gedney Farms Manor in White Plains. The indisposition 
of young Eugene Sugney Reynal was pronounced scarlet fever. The 
contagion began spreading among the guests and servants, and Dr. 
Julius Schmid, old and honored, a noteworthy figure in the com- 
munity and also our chief of staff, detailed three of us nurses for 
service there, practically turning the place into a hospital for five 
weeks. 

My special charge was Adelaide Fitzgerald, Reynal's fiancee, but 
as necessity arose we shifted around. Reynal's condition grew stead- 
ily worse. One morning at daybreak when the patient was almost in 
a coma Dr. Schmid sent for the priest to administer extreme unc- 
tion, and said to me, "You'd better get Miss Fitzgerald and tell her 
there's very little hope." 

She knelt by his bed, "Gene," she called to him, "Gene, we're going 
to be married — right now." 

Reynal was as near death as a man could be, but her voice reached 
into his subconscious and summoned him back. Another nurse and I, 



DARKNESS THERE AND NOTHING MORE 55 

hastily called upon to act as bridesmaids, stood in starched and rus- 
tling white beside the bed. It was extraordinary to watch; Reynal 
seemed to shake himself alive until he was conscious enough to re- 
spond "I do" to the priest who had arrived to perform quite a differ- 
ent office. 

As an anti-climax to all the excitement, and to my intense disgust, 
j I myself came down with a mild attack of scarlet fever. I was so em- 
barrassed that I went right on working and did not take to my bed 
until I actually began to peel. 

My usual cases offered drama of another sorts Often I was called 
in the middle of the night on a maternity case, perhaps ten miles 
away from the hospital, v where I had to sterilize the water and boil 
the forceps over a wood fire in the kitchen stove while the doctor 
scrubbed up as best he could. , Many times labor terminated before 
he could arrive and I had to perform the delivery by myself. 

To see a baby born is one of the greatest experiences that a human \ 
being can have.j Birth to me has always been more awe-inspiring than 
death. As often as I have witnessed the miracle, held the perfect crea- I 
ture with its tiny hands and tiny feet, each time I have felt as though / 
I were entering a cathedral with prayer in my heart. 

There is so little knowledge in the world compared with what there 
is to know. Always I was deeply affected by the trust patients, rich 
or poor, male or female, old or young, placed in their nurses. When 
' we appeared they seemed to say, "Ah, here is someone who can tell 
us." Mothers asked me pathetically, plaintively, hopefully, "Miss 
Higgins, what should I do not to have another baby right away?" I 
was at a loss to answer their intimate questions, and passed them 
along to the doctor, who more often than not snorted, "She ought to 
be ashamed of herself to talk to a young girl about things like that." 

All such problems were thus summarily shoved aside. We had one 
woman in our hospital who had had several miscarriages and six 
babies, each by a different father. Doctors and nurses knew every 
time she went out that she would soon be back again, but it was not 
their business or anybody's business; it was just "natural." \ 

1 To be polished off neatly, the nurses in training were assigned to 
one of the larger city hospitals in which to work during the last three 
or six months of our course. Mine was the Manhattan Eye and Ear 



56 MARGARET SANGER 

at Forty-first Street and Park Avenue, across the street from the 
Murray Hill Hotel, and I welcomed the chance to see up-to-date equip- 
ment and clockwork discipline. My new environment was considerably 
less harsh and intense, more comfortable and leisurely. 

At one of the frequent informal dances held there my doctor part- 
ner received a message — not a call, but a caller. His architect wanted 
to go over blueprints with him. "Come along," he invited. "See 
whether you think my new house is going to be as fine as I do." 

The architect was introduced. "This is William Sanger." 

The three of us bent over the plans. The doctor was the only one 
unaware of the sudden electric quality of the atmosphere. 

At seven-thirty the next morning when I went out for my usual 
"constitutional," Bill Sanger was on the doorstep. He had that type 
of romantic nature which appealed to me, and had been waiting 
there all night. We took our walk together that day and regularly 
for many days thereafter, learning about each other, exploring each 
other's minds, and discovering a community of ideas and ideals. His 
fineness fitted in with my whole destiny, if I can call it such, just as 
definitely as my hospital training. 

I found Bill's mother a lovely person — artistic, musical, and highly 
cultured. His father had been a wealthy sheep rancher in Australia. 
When you travel anywhere from there, you practically have to go 
round the world, and on his way to San Francisco he had passed 
through Central Europe. In a German town he had fallen in love 
with the Mayor's youngest daughter, then only fourteen. When she 
was of marriageable age he had returned for her, and it was from 
this talented mother that Bill had derived his fondness for music and 
desire to paint. 

(Bill was an architect only by prof ession ;\he was pure artist by 
temperament. Although his heart was not in mechanical drawing, he 
did it well. Stanford White once told me he was one of the six best 
draftsmen in New York. He confided to me his dream of eventually 
being able to leave architecture behind and devote himself to painting, 
particularly murals. I had had instilled in me a feeling for the natural 
relationship between color and symmetry of line, and sympathized 
not merely with his aspirations but was intensely proud of his work. 
Some day we were going to be married, and as soon as we had saved 



DARKNESS THERE AND NOTUING MORE 57 

enough we would go to Paris, whither the inspiration of the great 
French painters was summoning artists from all over the world. 

These plans were nebulous and had nothing to do with my abrupt 
departure from New York. One afternoon, about four o'clock, I was 
standing under a skylight putting drops in the eyes of a convalescent 
patient. Unexpectedly, inexplicably, the glass began to fall apart. 
Almost by instinct I pulled my patient under the lintel of the door. 
A great blast followed and pandemonium was let loose; the ruined 
skylight went crashing down the stairs, plaster and radiators tum- 
bled from the walls, doors fell out, windows cracked. 

I rushed to the bed of the man who needed my first attention. He 
had been operated on for a cataract only a few hours previously and 
my orders had been not to let him move too soon lest the fluid in his 
eye run out and damage his sight permanently. But he with the 
other terrified patients was already on his feet. 

Rounding up all those under my care and checking their names 
took several minutes, and while I was still trying to quiet them, am- 
bulances from other hospitals came clanging up. By the time I had 
ushered my charges down to the ground floor, a way had been cleared 
through the debris of fallen brick and wood. Since mine were not 
stretcher cases I was able to crowd ten of them into one ambulance, 
and we were taken to the New York Hospital. Not until I had them 
all safely installed did I learn what had happened to our building. A 
tremendous explosion in the new Park Avenue subway had prac- 
tically demolished it, and it had to be evacuated. 

I returned to White Plains, where Bill came up frequently to see 
me. On one of our rambles he idly pulled at some vines on a stone 
wall, and then, with his hands, tilted my face for a kiss. The next 
morning, to my mortification, four telltale finger marks were out- 
lined on my cheek by poison ivy blisters. The day after that, my face 
was swollen so that my eyes were tight shut, and I was sick for two 
months; since my training was finished, I was sent home to con- 
valesce. 



Chapter Five 



CORALS- TO CUT LIFE UPON 



VfT^OR a while I stayed at Corning, and then went back to New York 
X/ to start nursing in earnest. ,Qn one of my free afternoons in 
August, Bill and I went for a drive, and he suggested we stop in at 
the house of a friend of his who was a minister. All had been pre- 
pared. License and rice were waiting. And so we were married. 

The first year is half taken up with love and half with planning a 
future together which is to endure forever. These dreams feed youth- 
ful ambitions, but they seldom can come true in their entirety. In our 
case the obstacles arose with undue speed. 

I was not well. I was paying the cost of long hours in mother's 
closely confined room and of continuous overwork in the hospital. 
Medical advice was to go West to live,' but I would not go without 
Bill, and he had a commission which kept him in New York, Ac- 
cordingly, I was, packed off to a small semi-sanitarium near Saranac 
where the great Dr. Trudeau, specialist in pulmonary tuberculosis, 
was consulted. 

Existence there was depressing. A man might be talking to me 
one day, full of life and spirit and hope, and the next morning not 
appear. The dead were ordinarily removed in the quiet of the night, 
and the doctors made no comment. In this gloomy environment I 
rested, preparing myself for motherhood. The flood of treatises on 
child psychology had not yet started, and even the books on the care 
and feeding of infants were few. But I read whatever I could. 

58 



CORALS TO CUT LIFE UPON 59 

Just before it was time for the baby to be born I returned to the 
little apartment on St. Nicholas Avenue at 149th Street, then prac- 
tically suburban. Taking every precaution, we had engaged four 
doctors in a row. Dr. Schmid had said he would perform the cere- 
mony unless it came at night, in which case his assistant would have 
to take charge. The assistant had provided that, if he were not avail- 
able, his assistant would be on call, and this assistant had another 
assistant to assist him. 

When towards three o'clock one morning I felt the first thin, fine 
pains of warning, Bill tried one after the other of our obstetricians 
— not one could be located. He had to run around the corner to the 
nearest general practitioner. Due almost as much to this young doc- 
tor's inexperience as to my physical state, the ordeal was unusually 
hard, but the/baby Stuart' n given Amelia's family name, was perfectly 
healthy, strong, and sturdy. I looked upon this as a victory, although 
it was only partial, because I had to go right back to the mountains. 
It was a wrench to leave again so soon and at such a time, but I 
could not believe it would be for long. 

With Stuart and a nurse I took rooms in a friendly farmhouse 
near a small Adirondack village; I did not want the baby in the 
midst of sick people, and, moreover, I was not welcome at Saranac 
itself, since Dr. Trudeau did not like to have in residence patients 
whose illness had progressed beyond a certain stage. One of the most 
important parts of the treatment was stuffing with food. I was being 
filled with the then recognized remedy, creosote, and gulped capsule 
after capsule, which broke my appetite utterly. Still I had to pour 
down milk and swallow eggs, and always I had to rest and rest and 
rest. 

At the end of eight months I was worse instead of better, and had 
no interest in living. Nan and Bill's mother were summoned, and 
two of Dr. Trudeau's associates came to see me. They advised that 
I should go nearer Saranac and be separated from all personal re- 
sponsibilities. 

"What would you yourself like to do?" they asked. 

"Nothing." 

"Where would you like to go?" 

"Nowhere." 



6o MARGARET SANGER 

"Would you like to have the baby sent to your brother, or would 
you rather have your mother-in-law take it?" 

"I don't care." 

To every suggestion I was negative. I was not even interested in 
my baby. 

The two doctors left. The younger, however, apparently not satis- 
fied with the professional attitude, returned almost immediately, not 
so much in a medical capacity as one of anxious friendliness. I was 
still sitting in the same state of listlessness. He laid his hand on my 
shoulder quietly, but I had all the feeling of being violently shaken. 
"Don't be like this !" he exclaimed. "Don't let yourself get into such 
a mental condition. Do something! Want something! You'll never 
get well if you keep on this way." 

I could not sleep that night. I had been rudely jolted from my 
stupor by the understanding doctor. Obviously preparations were 
being made for a lingering illness which would terminate in death. 
But if I had to die I would rather be with those I loved than dis- 
appear in the night as a part of the cold routine. 

As the first glimmer of dawn appeared through the curtains I got 
up and stared at the steadily ticking clock. It was not yet five. I 
dressed quickly, then tiptoed into the bedroom where the nurse and 
baby were slumbering soundly. I roused her and told her to pack 
up ; we were going back to New York. She looked up in drowsy dis- 
may, but obeyed meekly. The farmer hitched up his horse and we 
jogged along all the way to the station in the early summer morning, 
bright with sunshine and cheery with birds. 

Bill was waiting at the Grand Central Terminal, quite naturally 
perplexed. He had that morning received two telegrams, one saying 
I was to be removed to Saranac at once, pending his approval as to 
the care of the baby by relatives, and the other from me asking him 
to meet me because I was coming home. I told him as best I could the 
reasons for my sudden decision. Though I probably sounded inco- 
herent he understood and, instead of scolding, soothed me tenderly 
and exclaimed, "You did just the right thing. I won't let you die." 

"And don't make me eat! Don't even mention food to me!" He 
promised to let me have my own way. 

At the small family hotel in Yonkers in which we settled, I lived 



CORALS TO CUT LIFE UPON 6l 

pretty much by myself, keeping the baby and everyone else away 
from me ; I had by now learned the dangers of contact in spreading 
tuberculosis. Once free from the horrors of invalidism and com- 
forted by love and devotion I began to regain a normal interest in 
life, and by the end of three weeks had recovered from my hysterical 
rejection of food. 

As soon as I was strong enough we started to explore Westchester 
County for a home site. We wanted something more than a mere 
house. We wanted space, we wanted a view, we wanted a garden. 
At Hastings-on-Hudson we found what we sought. There on fifty 
acres of hillside overlooking the river about ten families — doc- 
tors, teachers, college professors, scientists — had combined to con- 
struct the sort of dwellings they liked in the environment they con- 
sidered best suited for their children. We too had in mind a family 
and a comfortable, serene, suburban existence, and we joined this 
Columbia Colony, as it was called, renting a small cottage until we 
could build our own. 

The other wives and I spent our afternoons conferring over the 
momentous problems of servants, gardens, and schools. If we went 
to town, we took the children with us, fitting them with special shoes 
at Coward's, introducing them to museums, libraries, or art galleries. 
Life centered around them. When Stuart and his little friends began 
to ask questions, "Where do babies come from?" I collected them 
and tried to answer, using the simple phenomena of nature as illus- 
trations — flowers, frogs, fish, and animals. I still consider this 
approach has its place with many children, although modern sex edu- 
cationists may smile at this method, thinking it old-fashioned. 

None of the colony played cards. Instead, the women formed a 
literary club where we read papers on George Eliot, Browning, and 
Shakespeare, as well as on some current authors, and we had occa- 
sional political discussions. Out of this grew the Women's Club of 
Hastings. 

It was all very pleasant, and at first I was busy and contented. The 
endless details of housekeeping did not seem to me drudgery; con- 
quering minor crises was exciting. Though I was never slavishly do- 
mestic, I was inclined to be slavishly maternal. Bill was a devoted 
husband. He took care of me in the little ways — starting for the 



62 MARGARET SANGER 

train and coming back to put his head in the door and call, "It's aw- 
fully cold. Don't go out without your wrap," or, if it were hot, he 
offered, "Give me your list and I'll send up the groceries." 

I was again leading the life of an artist's family. Bill was a hard 
worker; I can rarely remember one evening of just reading together. 
I did the reading and he drew or painted. But I was never quite sure 
whether we were rich or poor. He possessed the finest qualities of 
creative genius, and with them some of its limitations and liabili- 
ties. When he was paid for a big commission he brought me orchids 
and embroidered Japanese robes which I had no occasion to wear, 
and filled the house with luxuries. This did not go with my prac- 
tical sense. If the grocery account were long unpaid, I protested, 
"They're beautiful. Thank you, but can we afford them?" 

"Certainly," and out of his pocket came tickets for the opera or 
theater, his chief pleasures. 

"But we shouldn't," I remonstrated as I ruffled a sheaf of bills 
before him. 

Nevertheless, we used the tickets. 

Every architect wants to embody his ideas at least once in his own 
home. Ours was "modern" in its square simplicity and unadorned 
surfaces of stuccoed hollow tile, even being called a show house ; peo- 
ple came from afar to study it. It was designed to have a large nurs- 
ery opening on a veranda overlooking the Hudson, a studio, a bath 
with each bedroom, fireplaces everywhere, and one especially capa- 
cious in the big library. From this room the open stairway, forking 
at the lower landing with a few steps leading down into the kitchen, 
reached up the wall to the second story. 

The house took long to complete, but it was fun. The moment Bill 
finished his work in New York he was back at it. Theoretically he 
supervised at night and the builder built by day. But when an arch 
did not turn out to be a perfect arch, seizing an ax, he chopped out 
part of it, usually pounding his fingers in the process. The neigh- 
bors, careful of their pennies, held their ears at the clatter and clamor 
and exclaimed, "There goes another partition." When the con- 
tractor returned in the morning he found his previous day's work 
demolished. Some portions were entirely done over two or three 
times. 



CORALS TO CUT LIFE UPON 63 

The color on the woodwork we applied ourselves by artificial light, 
plumped on our knees or stretching high overhead. If the effect were 
wrong, we had to match it all up again. Evening after evening we 
labored on the rose window which was to crown with radiance the 
head of the staircase. Far into the night we leaded and welded to- 
gether every glowing petal. Our fingers were cut, our nerves were 
irritated, our eyes fatigued. But tireless love went into the com- 
position of this rose window which symbolized the stability of our 
future. We were aiming at permanence and security, and our ef- 
forts seemed to be fused into indestructible unity. It was our key- 
stone of beauty. 

After the tedious worrying over details we suddenly became too 
impatient to wait any more, and, in spite of the raw condition of the 
house, late one February afternoon of half-sleet, half-rain, a mov- 
ing van pulled up to our front door. Through the semi-twilight 
boxes, crates, and barrels were carted in. 

The four-year-old Stuart was not well. We put him early to bed, 
and Bill stirred up a roaring fire in the furnace against the increas- 
ing cold. Then with hammer and claw we turned to our treasures, 
which we had not seen for such a time. It was like opening packages 
on Christmas morning. We had almost forgotten the tapestry Mary 
had sent from Persia, the rug from Egypt, Bill's paintings. "What's 
in this box? Oh, look here! See what I've found!" A flood of color 
inundated us. We tried out their warmth against our immaculate 
walls and floors. I was carrying my second baby and was tired hours 
before I wanted to stop. As I climbed up to bed I gazed down hap- 
pily on the litter below. 

Some time later I heard dimly through my sleep a pounding, and 
woke to realize it was the German maid at the door, crying, 
"Madam. Come! Fire in the big stove!" 

We jumped out of bed. Acrid smoke was in our nostrils, and we 
were swept by the horror of fire by night. Bill shouted to me, "Get 
right out ! I've got to give the alarm." 

Away he rushed in his pajamas; there was no telephone within 
half a mile. I seized Stuart from his crib, bedclothes and all. This 
took only a few seconds, but the kitchen was already ablaze and 
flames were leaping up the staircase. I pulled the blanket over his 



64 MARGARET SANGER 

head and started cautiously down, hugging the outer side. The blis- 
tering treads crunched as they gave under my feet, but did not col- 
lapse until I had reached the smoke-filled library. 

The family across the street welcomed us in. When I had tucked 
Stuart into an impromptu bed I went to watch. Not merely was the 
fire engine trying to get up the icy hill, two steps forward and one 
back, but the whole village was accompanying it to help organize 
a bucket brigade. 

The clouds had cleared and the bright moon was shining on the 
strange scene. The weather had turned much colder, and the rain 
had frozen into crystals which glittered on the branches of trees 
and shrubbery. It was unbelievably fantastic, and in that unreal 
setting the flames, as though directed by devilish intent, spurted 
only through our prized rose window. I stood silently regarding the 
result of months of work and love slowly disintegrate. Petal by 
petal it succumbed to the licking tongues of fire; one by one they 
fell into the gray-white snow. Fitting them together had taken so 
long; now relentlessly they were being pulled apart. A thing of 
beauty had perished in a few moments. 

It was as though a chapter of my life had been brought to a 
close, and I was neither disappointed nor regretful. On the con- 
trary, I was conscious of a certain relief, of a burden lifted. In that 
instant I learned the lesson of the futility of material substances. 
Of what great importance were they spiritually if they could go so 
quickly ?' t Pains, thirsts, heartaches could be put into the creation of 
something external which in one sweep could be taken from you\ 
With the destruction of the window, my scale of suburban values 
was consumed. I could never again pin my faith on concrete things ; 
I must build on myself alone. I hoped I should continue to have 
lovely objects around me, but I could also be happy without them. 

The next day was filled with neighbors coming to condole and 
offer help, and with insurance adjusters peering about and ques- 
tioning. They found the too-heavy fire in the furnace had overheated 
the pipes around which the asbestos had not yet been wrapped. We 
lost a good deal because, although the house was covered, the in- 
surance on the furniture had not been shifted to its new location, 



CORALS TO CUT LIFE UPON 65 

and, moreover, many of our possessions were irreplaceable, their 
worth having lain in the sentiment attached to them. 

A personal catastrophe may in the end prove to be a public benefit. 
People in the community are brought together in sympathy, and 
learn by the experience of others how to protect themselves.' After 
our mischance every householder in Columbia Colony began to 
look to his furnace and insure his home. 

Our walls were fireproof, and much of the house could be saved, 
but it was really more disheartening than complete demolition would 
have been, for in the latter case we could have started to rebuild 
from the beginning. I admired Bill greatly for the resolute way he 
set about the painful business again. He went over every inch, here 
saying, "This board is all right," and there tearing out black pieces of 
charred wood. It was a dirty job, but he stuck to it. Nevertheless, 
paint and stain as we would, we could not quite get rid of the unmis- 
takable and ineradicable odor which clings around a burned build- 
ing, almost like the smell of death. 

Next summer we moved in once more. But the house was never 
the same. Never could I recapture that first flush of joy. 

Grant, my second son, was born almost immediately. I loved hav- 
ing a baby to tend again, and wanted at least four more as quickly 
as my health would permit. I could not wait another five years. I 
yearned especially for a daughter, and twenty months later my wish 
came true. After Peggy's birth, the doctor went downstairs and saw 
Bill sitting in the library with Grant in his arms and tears welling 
from his eyes. 

"Why, what's the matter? There's a nice little girl upstairs." 

"I'm thinking of this poor little boy. Margaret has wanted a 
girl so long — now she'll have no room in her heart for him." 

Bill's fears were groundless. Grant was not supplanted, but Peggy 
was so satisfactory a baby that I was not particularly disappointed 
when my illness cropped up again and the doctor said my family 
must end at this point. I was quite content with things as they were. 

Even as a little fellow, the sandy-haired, square-built Stuart was 
practical, loved sports, and had a reasoning, logical mind, always 
experimenting with life as well as with mechanical things. A 



66 MARGARET SANGER 

thorough Higgins, he had to find out for himself and prove it. He 
used to stamp and scold when presented with a chore, such as mow- 
ing the lawn or bringing in wood for the fireplaces, but his rebel- 
lions were brief, and, when he realized the inevitable, he turned it 
into a game. "Come on over," he hailed his friends. "We've lots to 
do. Let's get to it ! We're going to have great fun." 

The other boys, taken in by his enthusiastic invitations, also be- 
lieved that mowing the lawn or bringing in wood were among the 
best games invented. 

Grant was more self-conscious than Stuart, and more inarticulate, 
but more affectionate. He followed the baby Peggy slavishly. They 
were usually hand in hand, and Grant's darkness contrasted with her 
bright, blond hair. From the time she could talk they referred to 
themselves as "we." Peggy was the most independent child I have 
ever seen. At three she knew what she wanted and where she was 
going. She was vivacious, mischievous, laughing — the embodiment 
of all my hopes in a daughter. 

Stuart typified the scientist, Grant the artist, Peggy the doer. It 
was maternally gratifying to wonder whether they would carry 
out these propensities in their later lives. 

I enjoyed my literary activities along with my children, and Bill 
encouraged me. "You go ahead and finish your writing. I'll get 
the dinner and wash the dishes." And what is more he did it, draw- 
ing the shades, however, so that nobody could see him. He thought 
I should make a career of it instead of limiting myself to small-town 
interests. 

Both Bill and I were feeling what amounted to a world hunger, 
the pull and haul towards wider horizons. For him Paris was still 
over the next hill. I was not able to express my discontent with 
the futility of my present course, but after my experience as a nurse 
with fundamentals this quiet withdrawal into the tame domesticity 
of the pretty riverside settlement seemed to be bordering on stag- 
nation. I felt as though we had drifted into a swamp, but we would 
not wait for the tide to set us free. 

It was hopeless to emphasize the importance of practical neces- 
sities to an artist, and consequently I decided to resume nursing in 



CORALS TO CUT LIFE UPON 6j 

order to earn my share. We had spent years building our home and 
used it only for a brief while. I was glad to leave when, in one of 
our financial doldrums, we plunged back into the rushing stream of 
New York life. 



Chapter Six 



FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS 



WE took an apartment way uptown. It was the old-fashioned 
railroad type — big, high-ceilinged, with plenty of room, air, 
and light. The children's grandmother came to live with us and her 
presence gave me ease of mind when I was called on a case; my 
children were utterly safe in her care. 

. Headlong we dived into one of the most interesting phases of 
life the United States has ever seen. Radicalism in manners, art, in- 
dustry, morals, politics was effervescing, and the lid was about to 
blow off in the Great War. John Spargo, an authority on Karl 
Marx, had translated Das Kapital into English, thus giving impetus 
to Socialism. Lincoln Steffens had published The Shame of the 
Cities, George Fitzpatrick had produced War, What For?, a strange 
and wonderful arraignment of capitalism, which sold thousands of 
copies. 

The names of Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso first became familiar 
sounds on this side of the Atlantic at the time of the notable Armory 
Exhibition, when outstanding examples of impressionist and cubist 
painting were imported from Europe. But there was so much of 
eccentricity — a leg on top of a head, a hat on a foot, the Nude De- 
scending a Staircase, all in the name of art — that you had to close 
one eye to look at it. The Armory vibrated ; it shook New York. 

Although Bill had studied according to the old school, he could 
see the point of view of the radical in art, and in politics as well. 

68 



FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS 69 

His attitude towards the underdog was much like father's. He had 
always been a Socialist, although not active, and held his friend 
Eugene V. Debs in high esteem. 

A religion without a name was spreading over the country. The 
converts were liberals, Socialists, anarchists, revolutionists of all 
shades. They were as fixed in their faith in the coming revolution 
as ever any Primitive Christian in the immediate establishment of 
the Kingdom of God. Some could even predict the exact date of its 
advent. 

At. one end of the scale of rebels and scoffers were the "pink" 
parliamentarian socialists and theorists at whom anarchists hurled 
the insult "bourgeois." At the other were the Industrial Workers 
of the World, the "Wobblies," advocating unionization of the whole 
industry rather than the craft or trade. This was to be brought about, 
if need be, by direct action. 

Almost without knowing it you became a "comrade." You could 
either belong to a group that believed civilization was to be saved 
by the vote and- by protective legislation, or go further to the left 
and believe with the anarchists in the integrity of the individual, and 
that it was possible to develop human character to the point where 
laws and police were unnecessary. 

The mental stirring was such as to make a near Renaissance. 
Everybody was writing on the nebulous "new liberties." Practically 
always people could be found to support leaders or magazines, al- 
though many of the latter lived for hardly more than a single issue. 

Upton Sinclair was utilizing his gift for vivid expression and 
righteous wrath in trying to correct social abuses by the indirect but 
highly effective method of story-telling. The Jungle was a powerful 
expose of the capitalist meat industry responsible for the "em- 
balmed beef" which had poisoned American soldiers in '98. Cou- 
rageous as he was, he was yet mistrusted by the Socialist Old Guard 
as being a Silk Hat Radical who retained his bourgeois philosophy. 
Furthermore, he had been divorced, and divorce at that time was 
something of a scandal. Though anarchists minded such details not 
a whit, Socialists were imbued with all the respectabilities; to most 
of these home-loving Germans, only the form of government needed 
change. 



JO MARGARET SANGER 

In the United States the party was trying to separate itself from 
this German influence, and the standard bearer of the American 
concept was the magnetic and beloved Debs. Not himself an intel- 
lectual, he did not need to be; he was intelligent. Risen as he had 
from the ranks of the railroad workers, he knew their hardships 
from experience. Though I am not sure he actually was tall, he gave 
the illusion of height because of his thinness and stooping shoul- 
ders. He was all flame, like a fire spirit. That was probably why 
the members of his coterie followed him so gladly. 

Our living room became a gathering place where liberals, an- 
archists, Socialists, and I.W.W.'s could meetl\ These vehement in- 
dividualists had to have an audience, preferably a small, intimate 
one. They really came to see Bill; I made the cocoa. I used to listen 
in, not at all sure my opinions would be accepted by this very su- 
perior group. When I did meekly venture something, I was quite 
likely to find myself on the opposite side — right in a left crowd and 
vice versa. 

Any evening you might find visitors from the Middle West be- 
ing aroused by Jack Reed, bullied by Bill Haywood, led softly 
towards anarchist thought by Alexander Berkman. When throats 
grew dry and the flood of oratory waned, someone went out for 
hamburger sandwiches, hot dogs, and beer, paid for by all. The 
luxuriousness of the midnight repast depended upon the collection 
of coins tossed into the middle of the table, which consisted of about 
what everybody had in his pocket. These considerate friends never 
imposed a burden either of extra work or extra expense. In the 
kitchen everyone sliced, buttered, opened cans. As soon as all were 
replenished, the conversation was resumed practically where it had 
left off. 

Both right-wingers and left-wingers who ordinarily objected to 
those in between loved Jack Reed, the master reporter just out 
of Harvard. He refused to conform to the rule and rote of either, 
though his natural inclination appeared to be more in harmony with 
direct action. 

Behind this most highly intellectual young man loomed an un- 
couth, stumbling, one-eyed giant with an enormous head which he 
tended to hold on one side. Big Bill Haywood looked like a bull about 



FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS 7 1 

to plunge into an arena. He seemed always glancing warily this way 
and that with his one eye, head slightly turned as though to get 
the view of you. His great voice boomed ; his speech was crude and 
so were his manners ; his philosophy was that of the mining camps, 
where he had spent his life. But I soon found out that for gentle- 
ness and sympathy he had not his equal. He was blunt because he 
was simple and direct. Though he was not tailor-made, he was 
custom-made. 

Because Big Bill's well-wishers saw so much that was fine in 
him, they wanted to smooth off the jagged edges. When they tried 
to polish his speeches, Jack Reed objected, saying, "Give him a free 
hand. He expresses what you and I think much more dramatically 
than we can. Don't try to stop him ! We should encourage him." 

One of Big Bill's best friends, Jessie Ashley, was, without mean- 
ing to be, a taming influence. These two were the oddest combina- 
tion in the world — old Bill with his one eye, stubby, roughened 
fingernails, uncreased trousers, and shoddy clothes for which he re- 
fused to pay more than the minimum; Jessie with Boston accent 
and horn-rimmed glasses, a compromise between spectacles and 
lorgnette, from which dangled a black ribbon, the ultimate word 
in eccentric decoration. 

Jessie was one of the most conspicuous of the many men and 
women of long pedigree who were revolting against family tradi- 
tion, She was the daughter of the President of the New York School 
of Law, and sister of its dean. When her brother had organized the 
first women's law class, she had been his pupil and later had become 
the first woman lawyer in New York City. £Ter peculiarly honest 
mind was tolerant towards others, but uncompromising towards 
herself. It was said of her truly that she was always in the forefront 
when it took courage to be there; always in the background when 
there was credit to be gained. A Socialist in practice as well as 
theory, she spent large portions of her income in getting radicals 
out of jail, and her own legal experience she gave freely in their be- 
half. Nevertheless, her appearances at strike meetings were slightly 
uncomfortable; class tension rose up in waves. 

Many others were trying to pull themselves out of the rut of 
tradition. Alexander Berkman, the gentle anarchist, understood them 



J2 MARGARET SANGER 

all. He had just been freed after fourteen years' imprisonment for 
his attempt to assassinate Henry Clay Frick during the Homestead 
Steel strike of 1892. His emergence had stirred anarchism up again, 
and particularly its credo of pure individualism — to stand on your 
own and be yourself, never to have one person dictate to another, even 
parent to child. 

Berkman's appearance belied his reputation — blond, blue-eyed, 
slightly built, with thinnish hair, and sensitive, mobile face and hands. 
He was a thoughtful ascetic, believing sincerely that the quickest way 
to focus attention on social outrages was to commit some dramatic 
act, however violent or antipathetic it might be to his nature — and 
then suffer the consequences. He was not at all embittered by his 
sojourn in jail, and had a great sense of humor, coupled with his 
most extraordinary understanding of the strange congeries of peo- 
ple who were about to be melted down into his glowing crucible of 
truth. 

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn had made the transition from Catholicism, 
Jack Reed from being a "Harvard man," Mabel Dodge from being 
a society matron. They all had had to get over being class conscious, 
and acquire instead the consciousness of the class struggle. Berk- 
man made friends with all, and when they were faced by problems 
apparently insurmountable, he advised them on their spiritual jour- 
ney, and supported and backed them. For this reason he was be- 
loved by all who encountered his most gracious charm. 

This was not the way of Emma Goldman, whose habit was to 
berate and lash with the language of scorn. She was never satisfied 
until people had arrived at her own doorstep and accepted the dogma 
she had woven for herself. Short, stocky, even stout, a true Russian 
peasant type, her figure indicated strength of body and strength of 
character, and this impression was enhanced by her firm step and 
reliant walk. Though I disliked both her ideas and her methods I 
admired her; she was really like a spring house-cleaning to the 
sloppy thinking of the average American. Our Government suf- 
fered in the estimation of the liberal world when she and Berkman 
were expelled from the country. 

Of all the strange places for these diverse personalities to meet, 
none more strange could have been found than in Mabel Dodge's 



FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS 73 

salon, which burst upon New York like a rocket. Mabel belonged 
to one of the old families of Buffalo, but neither in thought nor 
action was she orthodox. Only in the luxurious appointments of her 
home did she conform. 

Among the sights and memories I shall never forget were her 
famous soirees at Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue. A certain one 
typical of all the others comes to mind ; the whole gamut of liberal- 
ism had collected in her spacious drawing-room before an open 
fire. Cross-legged on the floor, in the best Bohemian tradition, were 
Wobblies with uncut hair, unshaven faces, leaning against valuable 
draperies. Their clothes may have been unkempt, but their eyes were 
ablaze with interest and intelligence. Each knew his own side of the 
subject as well as any scholar. You had to inform yourself to be M 
in the liberal movement. Ideas were respected, but you had to back . 
them up with facts. Expressions of mere emotion, unleashed from 
reason, could not be let loose to wander about. 

Listener more than talker, Mabel sat near the hearth, brown 
bangs outlining a white face, simply gowned in velvet, beautifully 
arched foot beating the air. For two hours I watched fascinatedly 
that silken ankle never ceasing its violent agitation. 

The topic of conversation turned out to be direct action. Big 
Bill was the figure of the evening, but everybody was looking for 
an opportunity to talk. Each believed he had a key to the gates of 
Heaven; each was trying to convert the others. It could not exactly 
have been called a debate, because a single person held the floor as 
long as he could. Then, at one of his most effective periods, some- 
body else half rose and interposed a "But — " The speaker hurried 
on; at his next telling sentence came other "But — s," until finally 
he was downed by the weight of interruptions. In the end, conver- 
sions were nil; all were convinced beforehand either for or against, 
and I never knew them to shift ground. 

It is not hard to laugh about it now, but nobody could have been 
more serious and determined than we were in those days. 

Just before the argument reached the stage of fist fights, the 
big doors were thrown open and the butler announced, "Madam, 
supper is served." Many of the boys had never heard those words, 
but one and all jumped up with alacrity from the floor and discus- 



74 MARGARET SANGER 

sion was, for the moment at least, postponed. The wide, generous 
table in the dining room was burdened with beef, cold turkey, hot 
ham — hearty meat for hungry souls. On a side table were pitchers 
of lemonade, siphons, bottles of rye and Scotch. 

Mabel never stirred while the banquet raged, but continued to sit, 
her foot still beating the air, and talked with the few who did not 
choose to eat. 

The class contrasts encountered in a gathering there were not 
unique. They were to be found elsewhere, even in matrimony. When 
the wealthy J. G. Phelps Stokes married Rose Pastor, the Russian- 
Jewish cigar maker, both families felt equally outraged; he was 
practically sent to Coventry by his former associates and the Jews 
regarded her as a renegade because she wore a silver cross about 
her neck. William English Walling, the last word in Newport, mar- 
ried Anna Strunsky, the last word in the Jewish intelligentsia, and 
himself became a leading literary critic on the radical side. 

Harvard had been turning out liberals by the dozen, and all of 
them were playing hob with accepted conventions in thought. One 
of these was Walter Lippmann, others were Norman Hapgood and 
his brother, Hutchins. "Hutch" was then working on the Globe, a 
paper which because of its broad editorial policy was preferred by 
many radicals to the Call. He stood by Bill Haywood and Emma 
Goldman, although he had much more to lose economically and so- 
cially than the out-and-out reds. 

The anarchists seldom initiated anything, because they did not 
have the personnel or the equipment, but when something else was 
started which appeared to have any good in it, they came right in. 
This they did with the Ferrer School on Twelfth Street near Fourth 
Avenue, in the founding of which Hutch, with the liberal journal- 
ist, Leonard Abbott, and the author, Manuel Komroff, were moving 
spirits. The object was to provide a form of education more pro- 
gressive than that offered by the public schools, and its name was 
intended to perpetuate the memory of the recently martyred Span- 
ish libertarian, Francisco Ferrer, who had established modern free 
schools in Spain in which science and evolution had been taught. 

Lola Ridge, intense rebel from Australia, was the organizing sec- 
retary, Robert Henri and George Bellows gave lessons in art, and 



FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS 75 

a young man named Will Durant was chosen to direct the younger 
children, combining in his teaching Froebel, Montessori, and other 
new methods. Under him we enrolled Stuart. 

Will Durant was of French-Canadian ancestry. His mother had 
worked hard to put him through a Jesuit seminary, but just before 
taking the vows he had abandoned the priesthood. While he had 
been studying he had read Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis and 
was prepared to acquaint New York with the facts of sex psychol- 
ogy. Sitting nonchalantly to deliver his lectures, which evidenced 
scholarly background and research, he advanced to his small but 
serious audience practically the first public expression of this in- 
timate subject. 

The young instructor created rather a problem for the directors 
by unexpectedly marrying a pupil, Ida Kaufman, commonly called 
Puck. I remember one Saturday when she was romping with Stuart, 
and my laundress said to her, "Why, you're so young to be married. 
Do you like it?" 

Puck replied, "Oh, I don't care, but I'd much rather play marbles." 

Intellectuals were then flocking to enlist under the flag of hu- 
manitarianism, and as soon as anybody evinced human sympathies 
he was deemed a Socialist. My own personal feelings drew me 
towards the individualist, anarchist philosophy, and I read Kropot- 
kin, Bakunin, and Fourier, but it seemed to me necessary to ap- 
proach the ideal by way of Socialism \ as long as the earning of food, 
clothing, and shelter was on a competitive basis, man could never 
develop any true independence. 

Therefore, I joined the Socialist Party, Local Number Five* it- 
self something of a rebel in the ranks, which, against the wishes 
of the central authority, had been responsible for bringing Bill 
Haywood East after his release from prison. The members — Italian, 
Jewish, Russian, German, Spanish, a pretty good mixture — used 
the rooms over a neighborhood shop as a meeting place and there 
they were to be found every evening reading and discussing politics. 

Somebody had donated a sum of money to be spent to interest 
women in Socialism. As proof that we were not necessarily like 
the masculine, aggressive, bulldog, window-smashing suffragettes 
in England, I, an American and a mother of children, was selected 



j6 MARGARET SANGER 

to recruit new members among the clubs of working women. The 
Scandinavians, who had a housemaids' union, were the most satis- 
factory ; they already leaned towards liberalism. 

Grant, who was as yet too young to go to school, whole-heartedly 
disapproved of my political activities. Once when I was about to 
depart for the evening he climbed up on my lap and said, "Are 
you going to a meeting?" 

"Yes." 

"A soshist meeting?" 

"Yes." 

"Oh, I hate soshism!" 

Everybody else was amused when the Sangers went to a Socialist 
meeting. If I had an idea, I leaned over and whispered it to Bill, 
who waved his hand and called for attention. "Margaret has some- 
thing to say on that. Have you heard Margaret?" Many men might 
have labeled my opinions silly, and, indeed, I was not at all sure 
of them myself, but Bill thought if I had one, it was worth hearing. 

John Block and his wife, Anita, were ardent workers for the 
cause. She was a grand person, a Barnard graduate and editor of 
the woman's page of the Call. She telephoned me one evening, "Will 
you help me out ? (We have a lecture scheduled for tonight and our 
speaker is unable to come. Won't you take her place?" 

"But I can't speak. I've never made a speech in my life." 

"You'll simply have to do it. There isn't anybody I can get, and 
I'm depending on you." 

"How many will be there?" I asked. 

"Only about ten. You've nothing to be frightened of." 

But I was frightened — thoroughly so. I could not eat my supper. 
Shaking and quaking I faced the little handful of women who had 
come after their long working hours for enlightenment. Since I did 
not consider myself qualified to speak on labor, I switched the sub- 
ject to health, with which I was more familiar. This, it appeared, 
was something new. ; They were pleased and said to Anita, "Let's 
have more health talks." 'The second time we met the audience had 
swelled to seventy-five and arrangements were made to continue the 
lectures, if such they could be called, which I prepared while my 
patients slept. 



FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS JJ 

i The young mothers in the group asked so many questions about 
their intimate family life that I mentioned it to Anita. "Just tne 
thing/' she said. "Write up your answers and we'll try them out in 
the Call." The result was the first composition I had ever done for 
publication, a series under the general title, What Every Mother 
Should Know. I attempted, as I had with the Hastings children, to 
introduce the impersonality of nature in order to break through the 
rigid consciousness of sex on the part of parents, who were inclined 
to be too intensely personal about it. 

Then Anita requested a second series to be called; What Every 
Girl Should Know. The motif was, "If the mother can impress the 
child with the beauty and wonder and sacredness of the sex function, 
she has taught it the first lesson." 

These articles ran along for three or four weeks until one Sunday 
morning I turned to the Call to see my precious little effort, and, in- 
stead, encountered a newspaper box two columns wide in which was 
printed in black letters, 

WHAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD KNOW 




BY ORDER OF 

THE POST-OFFICE DEPARTMENT 



The words gonorrhea and syphilis had occurred in that article 
and Anthony Comstock, head of the New York Society for the Sup- 
pression of Vice, did not like them. By the so-called Comstock Law 
of 1873, which had been adroitly pushed through a busy Congress 



78 MARGARET SANGER 

/ \ 

on the eve of adjournment, the Post Office had been given authority 
to decide what might be called lewd, lascivious, indecent, or obscene, 
and this extraordinary man had been granted the extraordinary 
power, alone of all citizens of the United States, to open any letter 
or package or pamphlet or book passing through the mails and, if 
he wished, lay his complaint before the Post Office. So powerful had 
his society become that anything to which he objected in its name 
was almost automatically barred ; he had turned out to be sole censor 
for ninety million people. During some forty years Comstock had been 
damming the rising tide of new thought, thereby causing much harm, 
and only now was his hopeless contest against September Morn making 
him absurd and an object of ridicule. 

But at this same time also John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was organiz- 
ing the Bureau of Social Hygiene, in part to educate the working 
public regarding what were politely termed "social evils." A fine 
start was being made although no surveys had been completed. Lack- 
ing data, lecturers had to speak in generalities. Nevertheless, to me, 
who had sat through hours of highly academic exposition expressed 
in cultivated tones, their approach seemed timorous and their words 
disguised with verbiage. I saw no reason why these facts could not 
be given in a few minutes in language simple enough for anyone 
to understand. 

When my series was finished it was printed in pamphlet form. I 
sent a copy to Dr. Prince Morrow of the Bureau, asking for his 
opinion and any corrections he might suggest for the next edition; 
to my delight he replied he would like to see it spread by the mil- 
lion. The Bureau had names and backing but was not proceeding 
very fast towards educating working people regarding venereal 
disease; the articles in the Call, on the other hand, were reaching 
this same class by the thousand — yet the one which mentioned syphilis 
was suppressed. 

[I continued assiduously to write pieces for the Call:, One of these 
reported the laundry strike in New York City in the winter of 1 91 2, 
unauthorized by Samuel Gompers and his American Federation of 
Labor, which claimed it alone had the right to declare strikes. To 
get the details I went into the houses of the Irish Amazons, who 
with their husbands had walked out without being called out, simply 



FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS 79 

because they could not stand it any longer. They were the hardest 
worked, the poorest paid, had the most protracted and irregular 
hours of any union members. One man described his typical day: 
he rose at five, had ten minutes for lunch, less for supper, and 
dragged himself home at eleven at night. I was glad they had the 
courage to rebel, and it took courage to be a picket — getting up so 
early on bitterly cold mornings and waiting and waiting to waylay 
the strikebreakers and argue with them. The police were ready to 
pounce when the boss pointed out the ringleaders. 

This was the only time I came in contact with men and women 
on strike together. I could see the men had two things in their 
minds : one economic — the two-dollar extra wage and the shorter 
hours they might win; the other political — the coming of the social 
revolution. The women really cared for neither of these. Dominat- 
ing each was the relationship between her husband, her children, 
and herself. She might complain of being tired and not having 
enough money, but always she connected both with too many off- 
spring. 

Some of the strikers thought I might help them out, but I was 
not at all sure I believed either in direct action or legislation as a 
remedy for their difficulties. This lack of conviction prevented me 
from having the necessary force to aid them organize themselves, 
and in such an emergency a forceful leader was called for. The night 
of their rally I was amazed at the complete confusion. Anybody 
could speak — and was doing so. 

I felt helpless in the midst of this chaos, and distressed at their 
helplessness. But I knew the person who could manage the situa- 
tion effectively, and so I sent for Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a direct 
actionist identified with the I.W.W. Her father, Tom Flynn, a 
labor organizer, was the same type of philosophical rebel as my 
father, long on conversation but short on work. Elizabeth had been 
out in the logging camps of the West, where she had won the com- 
plete adoration of the lumberjacks. At her tongue's end were the 
words and phrases they understood, and she knew exactly the right 
note to stir them. 

Elizabeth stood on the platform, dramatically beautiful with her 
black hair and deep blue eyes, her cream-white complexion set off 



80 MARGARET SANGER 

by the flaming scarf she always wore about her throat. Nothing if 
not outspoken, she started by saying it was folly for the strikers 
to give up their bread and butter by walking out. They could achieve 
their ends more quickly if they threw hypothetical sabots into the 
machinery. "If a shirt comes in from a man who wears size fifteen, 
send him back an eighteen. Replace a dress shirt with a blue denim. 
That's what the laundry workers of France did, and brought the 
employers to their knees." 

The audience was being held spellbound by this instruction in 
the fine art of sabotage when some of Gompers' strong-arm men 
appeared, and the battle was on. They tramped up on the stage, 
moved furniture and chairs about, made so much noise Elizabeth's 
voice could not be heard, and finally ejected some of her sympathiz- 
ers. 

It was probably better in the end that the American Federation 
of Labor eventually took the laundry workers under its wing, be- 
cause the I.W.W. was not an organized body, but merely an agita- 
tional force which scarcely had the necessary strength to lead a 
successful strike in New York City. Its influence in Lawrence, 
Massachusetts, was far more potent. Joe Ettor, once bootblack in 
California, with Arturo Giovanitti, scholar, idealist, poet, and edi- 
tor of 77 Proletario, had been stirring up the unorganized textile 
strikers with impassioned eloquence. So compelling were the words 
of these two that workers of seven nationalities, chiefly Italian, had 
walked out spontaneously. 

The accidental shooting of a girl picket provided an excuse, far- 
fetched as it may seem, to jail the firebrands, Ettor and Gio- 
vanitti, who were charged with being "accessories before the fact," 
which meant they were accused of having known beforehand she 
was going to be shot by the police and were, therefore, responsible. 
Now, the strikers had martyrs, and the I.W.W. heroes of the West 
poured in to help. Bill Haywood, William E. Trautman of the 
United Brewery Workers, Carlo Tresca, editor and owner of an 
Italian paper in New York, contributed to put on the biggest show 
the East had ever seen — parades, banners, songs, speeches. 

The entire Italian population of America was aroused. These 
were then a people unto themselves. For much longer than the two 



FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS 8 1 

generations customary among other immigrant races they retained 
their habits, traditions, and language, ate their own type of food 
and read their own newspapers. 

Italians in New York who were in accord with the strikers de- 
cided on a step, novel in this country although it had been tried 
in Italy and Belgium. pThe primary reason for the failure of all labor 
rebellions was the hun ger cries of l he-kabi€&; if they were only fed 
the strikers could usually last out^ It was determined to bring the 
children of the textile workers to New York, where they could b« 
taken care of until the issue was settled. This resolution was made 
without knowing how many there might be; provision would be 
forthcoming somehow. 

Again because I was an American, a nurse, and reputed to be 
sympathetic to their cause and the cause of children, the committee 
asked me with John Di Gregorio and Carrie Giovanitti to fetch the 
youngsters. As soon as I agreed, telephone calls were put through to 
Lawrence, and a delegate took the midnight train to make the pre- 
liminary arrangements. 

We found the boys and girls gathered in a Lawrence public hall 
and, before we started, I insisted on physical examinations for con- 
tagious diseases. One, though ill with diphtheria, had been working 
up to the time of the strike. Almost all had adenoids and enlarged 
tonsils. Each, without exception, was incredibly emaciated. 

Our hundred and nineteen charges were of every age, from babies 
of two or three to older ones of twelve to thirteen. Although the 
latter had been employed in the textile mills, their garments were 
simply worn to shreds. Not a child had on any woolen clothing 
whatsoever, and only four wore overcoats. Never in all my nursing 
in the slums had I seen children in so ragged and deplorable a condition. 
The February weather was bitter, and we had to run them to the sta- 
tion. There the parents, with tears in their eyes and gratitude in 
their hearts, relinquished their shivering offspring. 

The wind was even icier when we reached Boston, and money 
was scarce. I had only enough for railroad fares and none for char- 
tering buses or hiring taxis. Consequently, again we had to scurry 
on foot from the North to the South Station. But, once more on 
the train, great was the enthusiasm of the boys and girls, who en- 



82 MARGARET SANGER 

tertained themselves by singing the Marseillaise and the Interna- 
tionale. All knew the words as well as the tunes, though the former 
might be in Polish, Hungarian, French, German, Italian, and even 
English. The children who sang those songs are now grown up. I 
wonder how they regard the present state of the world. 

As we neared New York I began to worry about our arrival. 
We were all weary. Would preparations have been made to feed 
this hungry mob and house it for the night? But I should have 
trusted the deep feeling and the dramatic instinct of the Italians. 
Thousands of men and women were waiting. As my assistants and 
I left the train, looking like three Pied Pipers followed by our ragged 
cohorts, the crowd pushed through the police lines, leaped the ropes, 
caught up the children as they came, and hoisted them to their 
shoulders. I was seized by both arms and I, too, had the illusion 
of being swept from the ground. 

The committee had secured permission to parade to Webster Hall 
near Union Square. Our tired feet fell into the rhythm of the band. 
As we swung along singing, laughing, crying, big banners bellying 
and torches flaring, sidewalk throngs shouted and whistled and ap- 
plauded. 

At Webster Hall supper was ready in plentiful quantity. Many 
of our small guests were so unused to sitting at table that they did 
not know how to behave. Like shy animals they tried to take cover, 
carrying their plates to a chair, a box, anything handy. Almost all 
snatched at their food with both fists and stuffed it down, they were 
so hungry. 

Socialists had not initiated this fight but they were in it. Many 
had come to offer shelter for the duration of the strike — perhaps six 
weeks, perhaps six months, perhaps a year — with visions in their 
minds of beautiful, starry-eyed, helpless little ones. Instead they 
were presented with bedraggled urchins, many of whom had never 
seen a toothbrush. But they rallied round magnificently; I cannot 
speak too highly of them. 

It was a responsibility to apportion the children properly, but I 
had willing and intelligent help. The Poles had sent a Polish dele- 
gate, the French had sent a French delegate, and so on, in order 
that all might be placed in homes where they could be understood. 



FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS 83 

Luckily several families were willing to take more than one child 
so that we were usually able to keep brother and sister together. 
Each, before it was handed over, was given a medical examination. 
The temporary foster-parents had to promise to write the real 
parents, and also to send a weekly report to the committee of how 
their charges were getting on. The tabulation was thorough, and 
not until four in the morning did the last of us go to bed. 

The next week, ninety-two more children were brought down, but 
I had no part in this, because I was on a case. Hysteria had now risen 
to such a height that some of the parents at the Lawrence Station 
were beaten and arrested by the police. Victor Berger of Wis- 
consin, the only Socialist member of Congress, asked for an investi- 
gation of circumstances leading up to the walkout. Although I had 
not been identified with it, he requested me to be present at the 
hearings. 

When Gompers testified, he literally shook with rage, and it 
seemed to me he was about to have apoplexy. The mill owners 
charged that the whole affair had been staged solely for notoriety 
and that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children 
should step in. 

Unfortunately, the witnesses for the strikers were not well- 
documented. When it was obvious that the Congressional Commit- 
tee was not receiving the correct impression, Berger asked me to 
take the stand and describe the condition of the children as I had 
seen them. Writing up statistics on hospital reports had given me 
the habit of classification. I was able from my brief notes to answer 
every question as to their nationalities, their ages, their weights, 
the number of those without underclothes and without overcoats. 
Senator Warren Gamaliel Harding led the inquiry, and I could see 
he was in sympathy with my vehement replies. 

The publicity had been so well managed by the Italians and their 
leaders that popular opinion turned in favor of the strikers, and they 
eventually won. At the end of March the little refugees, who had 
endeared themselves to their foster-parents, went back to the mill 
district. It was hard to recognize the same children of six weeks 
before, plumped up and dressed in new clothes. In November Ettor 
and Giovanitti were acquitted. 



84 MARGARET SANGER 

The Paterson silk strike of the next year, in which the workers 
were again predominantly Italian, may have been as important as 
the one at Lawrence, but it was by no means so obviously dramatic. 
Paterson was a gloomy city, and, as a river, the Passaic was sadder 
than the Merrimac. Though the leadership was far more cohesive, 
caution was evidenced on every hand. Its chief interest to me lay 
in Bill Haywood's participation. At Lawrence he had only been 
one of the committee, whereas at Paterson he was in charge for 
the first time in the East. Always before he had advised strikers to 
"take it on the chin" and not be too gentle in hitting back. But here, 
before ten thousand crowding up to the rostrum, I heard him warn, 
"Keep your hands in your pockets, men, and nobody can say you 
are shooting." 

An American was apt to be at a disadvantage in handling for- 
eigners, particularly when they felt aggrieved. They objected to his 
manner of going about things, so different from their own, and he, 
on the other hand, could not fully understand their psychology, and 
had the added obstacle of being compelled to work through an in- 
termediary in language. 

At Paterson the Italian groups were not behind Bill. As soon as 
he began to temper his language and sound a more wary note of ad- 
vice, his once-faithful adherents repudiated him. His clarion call of 
"Hands in the Pockets," which was intended to create favorable 
popular opinion by proving them "good boys," had actually tied 
their hands, and detectives beat and bullied them just the same. The 
public was not impressed and they were resentful. They claimed he 
did not have the old righting spirit he had shown when directing 
the miners of the West, he was getting soft, he was a sick man. Al- 
though he had actually progressed tactically and left them where 
they were, from that time on he lost his power of leadership. 

Following the method which had been so successful at Lawrence, 
Jack Reed endeavored to dramatize direct action in an enormous 
pageant at Madison Square Garden. He even had pallbearers carry 
an actual coffin into the hall to pictorialize the funeral of a worker 
who had been shot at Paterson. I could feel a tremor go through 
the audience, but, on the whole, conviction was lacking. 

The pageant was a fitting conclusion to one period of my life. 



FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS 85 

I believe that we all had our parts to play. Some had important 
ones ; some were there to lend support to a scene ; some were merely 
voices off stage. Each, whatever his role, was essential. I only walked 
on, but it had its influence in my future. 

No matter to what degree I might participate in strikes, I always 
came back to the idea which was beginning to obsess me — that 
something more was needed to assuage the condition of the very 
poor. It was both absurd and futile to struggle over pennies when 
fast-coming babies required dollars to feed them. 

I was thoroughly despondent after the Paterson debacle, and had 
a sickening feeling that there was to be no end; it seemed to me 
the whole question of strikes for higher wages was based on man's 
economic need of supporting his family, and that this was a shallow 
principle upon which to found a new civilization. Furthermore, I 
was enough of a Feminist to resent the fact that woman and her 
requirements were not being taken into account in reconstructing this 
new world about which all were talking. They were failing to con- 
sider the quality of life itself. 



Chapter Seven 



THE TURBID EBB AND FLOW OF MISERY 



'Every night and every morn 
Some to misery are born. 
Every mom and every night 
Some are born to sweet delight. 
Some are born to sweet delight, 
Some are bom to endless night." 

WILLIAM BLAKE 



DURING these years in New York trained nurses were in great 
demand. Few people wanted to enter hospitals; they were 
afraid they might be "practiced" upon, and consented to go only in 
desperate emergencies. Sentiment was especially vehement in the 
matter of having babies. A woman's own bedroom, no matter how 
inconveniently arranged, was the usual place for her lying-in. I was 
not sufficiently free from domestic duties to be a general nurse, but 
I could ordinarily manage obstetrical cases because I was notified 
far enough ahead to plan my schedule. And after serving my two 
weeks I could get home again. 

Sometimes I was summoned to small apartments occupied by 
young clerks, insurance salesmen, or lawyers, just starting out, 
most of them under thirty and whose wives were having their first 
or second baby. They were always eager to know the best and latest 
method in infant care and feeding. In particular, Jewish patients, 
whose lives centered around the family, welcomed advice and fol- 
lowed it implicitly. 

But more and more my calls began to come from the Lower East 
Side, as though I were being magnetically drawn there by some 
force outside my control. I hated the wretchedness and hopelessness 
of the poor, and never experienced that satisfaction in working 

86 



THE TURBID EBB AND FLOW OF MISERY 87 

among them that so many noble women have found. My concern 
for my patients was now quite different from my earlier hospital 
attitude. I could see that much was wrong with them which did not 
appear in the physiological or medical diagnosis. A woman in child- 
birth was not merely a woman in childbirth. My expanded outlook 
included a view of her background, her potentialities as a human 
being, the kind of children she was bearing, and what was going 
to happen to them. 

The wives of small shopkeepers were my most frequent cases, 
but I had carpenters, truck drivers, dishwashers, and pushcart ven- 
dors. I admired intensely the consideration most of these people 
had for their own. Money to pay doctor and nurse had been care- 
fully saved months in advance — parents-in-law, grandfathers, grand- 
mothers, all contributing. 

As soon as the neighbors learned that a nurse was in the build- 
ing they came in a friendly way to visit, often carrying fruit, jellies, 
or gefullter fish made after a cherished recipe. It was infinitely 
pathetic to me that they, so poor themselves, should bring me food. 
Later they drifted in again with the excuse of getting the plate, and 
sat down for a nice talk; there was no hurry. Always back of the 
little gift was the question, "I am pregnant (or my daughter, or \ 
my sister is). Tell me something to keep from having another baby. I 



We xannot affo rd another y et. 



I tried to explain the (only two methods I had ever heard of among 
the middle classes, both of which were invariably brushed aside as 
unacceptable. [They were of no certain avail to the wife because 
they placed the burden of responsibility solely upon the husband — 
a burden which he seldom assumed. What she was seeking was self- 
protection she could herself use, and there was none.. 

Below this stratum of society was one in truly desperate circum- 
stances. The men were sullen and unskilled, picking up odd jobs 
now and then, but more often unemployed, lounging in and out of 
the house at all hours of the day and night. The women seemed to 
slink on their way to market and were without neighborliness. 

These submerged, untouched classes were beyond the scope of or- 
ganized charity or religion. No labor union, no church, not even the 
Salvation Army reached them. They were apprehensive of every- 




88 MARGARET SANGER 

one and rejected help of any kind, ordering all intruders to keep 
out ; both birth and death they considered their own business. Social 
agents, who were just beginning to appear, were profoundly mis- 
trusted because they pried into homes and lives, asking questions 
about wages, how many were in the family, had any of them ever 
been in jail. Often two or three had been there or were now under 
suspicion of prostitution, shoplifting, purse snatching, petty thievery, 
and, in consequence, passed furtively by the big blue uniforms on 
the corner. 
' The utmost depression came over me as I approached this sur- 
reptitious region. Below Fourteenth Street I seemed to be breathing 
a different air, to be in another world and country where the people 
had habits and customs alien to anything I had ever heard about. 
There were then approximately ten thousand apartments in New 
York into which no sun ray penetrated directly; such windows as 
they had opened only on a narrow court from which rose fetid 
odors. It was seldom cleaned, though garbage and refuse often went 
down into it. All these dwellings were pervaded by the foul breath 
of poverty, that moldy, indefinable, indescribable smell which can- 
not be fumigated out, sickening to me but apparently unnoticed by 
those who lived there. When I set to work with antiseptics, their 
pungent sting, at least temporarily, obscured the stench* 

I remember one confinement case to which I was called by the 
doctor of an insurance company. I climbed up the five flights and 
entered the airless rooms, but the baby had come with too great 
speed. A boy of ten had been the only assistant. Five flights was a 
long way; he had wrapped the placenta in a piece of newspaper and 
dropped it out the window into the court. 

any families took in "boarders," as they were termed, whose 
small contributions paid the rent. These derelicts, wanderers, alter- 
nately working and drinking, were crowded in with the children; 
a single room sometimes held as many as six sleepers. Little girls 
were accustomed to dressing and undressing in front of the men, 
and were often violated, occasionally by their own fathers or 
brothers, before they reached the age of puberty. * 

; Pregnancy was a chronic condition among the women of this 
class. Suggestions as to what to do for a girl who was "in trouble" 




THE TURBID EBB AND FLOW OF MISERY 89 

or a married woman who was "caught" passed from mouth to mouth 
— herb teas, turpentine, steaming, rolling downstairs, inserting slip- 
pery elm, knitting needles, shoe-hooks. When they had word of a 
new remedy they hurried to the drugstore, and if the clerk were 
inclined to be friendly he might sa^, "Oh, that won't help you, but 
here's something that may." The younger druggists usually refused 
to give advice because, if it were to be known, they would come 
under the law; midwives were even more fearful. The doomed 
women implored me to reveal the "secret" rich people had, offering 
to pay me extra to tell them; many really believed I was holding 
back information for money,; They asked everybody and tried any- 
thing, but nothing did them any good. On Saturday nights I have 
seen groups of from fifty to one hundred with their shawls over 
their heads waiting outside the office of a five-dollar abortionist. 

Each time I returned to this district, which was becoming a re- 
current nightmare, I used to hear that Mrs. Cohen "had been car- 
ried to a hospital, but had never come back,'* or that Mrs. Kelly 
"had sent the children to a neighbor and had put her head into the 
gas oven." Day after day such tales were poured into my ears — a 
baby born dead, great relief — the death of an older child, sorrow 
but again relief of a sort — the story told a thousand times of death^ 
from abortion and children going into institutions. I shuddered 
with horror as I listened to the details and studied the reasons back 
of them — destitution linked with excessive childbearing. The waste 
of life seemed utterly senseless. One by one worried, sad, pensive, 
and aging faces marshaled themselves before me in my dreams, 
sometimes appealingly, sometimes accusingly. 

These were not merely "unfortunate conditions among the poor" 
such as we read about. I knew the women personally. They were 
living, breathing, human beings, with hopes, fears, and aspirations 
like my own, yet their weary, misshapen bodies, "always ailing, 
never failing," were destined to be thrown on tjie scrap heap before 
they were thirty-five. I could not escape from the facts of their 
wretchedness; neither was I able to see any way out. My own cozy 
and comfortable family existence was becoming a reproach to me. 

Then one stifling mid- T uly day of 191 2 I was summoned to a 
Grand Street tenement. My patient was a small, slight Russian 



90 MARGARET SANGER 

Jewess, about twenty-eight years old, of the special cast of feature 
to which suffering lends a madonna-like expression. The cramped 
three-room apartment was in a sorry state of turmoil. Jake Sachs, 
a truck driver scarcely older than his wife, had come home to find 
the three children crying and her unconscious from the effects of a 
self -induced abortion. He had called the nearest doctor, who in turn 
had sent for me. Jake's earnings were trifling, and most of them 
had gone to keep the none-too-strong children clean and properly 
fed. But his wife's ingenuity had helped them to save a little, and 
this he was glad to spend on a nurse rather than have her go to a 
hospital. 

The doctor and I settled ourselves to the task of fighting the 
septicemia. Never had I worked so fast, never so concentratedly. 
The sultry days and nights were melted into a torpid inferno. It 
did not seem possible there could be such heat, and every bit of 
food, ice, and drugs had to be carried up three flights of stairs. 

Jake was more kind and thoughtful than many of the husbands 
I had encountered. He loved his children, and had always helped his 
wife wash and dress them. He had brought water up and carried 
garbage down before he left in the morning, and did as much as 
he could for me while he anxiously watched her progress. 

After a fortnight Mrs. Sachs' recovery was in sight. Neighbors, 
ordinarily fatalistic as to the results of abortion, were genuinely 
pleased that she had survived. She smiled wanly at all who came to 
see her and thanked them gently, but she could not respond to their 
hearty congratulations. She appeared to be more despondent and 
anxious than she should have been, and spent too much time in 
meditation. 

At the end of three weeks, as I was preparing to leave the fragile 
patient to take up her difficult life once more, she finally voiced her 
fears, "Another baby will finish me, I suppose?" 

"It's too early to talk about that," I temporized. 

But when the doctor came to make his last call, I drew him aside. 
"Mrs. Sachs is terribly worried about having another baby." 

"She well may be," replied the doctor, and then he stood before 
her and said, "Any more such capers, young woman, and there'll be 
no need to send for me." 



THE TURBID EBB AND FLOW OF MISERY gi 

"I know, doctor," she replied timidly, "but," and she hesitated as 
though it took all her courage to say it, "what can I do to prevent 
it?" 

The doctor was a kindly man, and he had worked hard to save 
her, but such incidents had become so familiar to him that he had 
long since lost whatever delicacy he might once have had. He laughed 
good-naturedly. ; 'You want to have your cake and eat it too, do 
you? Well, it can't be done." . 

Then picking up his hat and bag to depart he said, "Tell Jake 
to sleep on the roof." 

I glanced quickly at Mrs. Sachs. Even through my sudden tears 
I could see stamped on her face an expression of absolute despair. 
We simply looked at each other, saying no word until the door 
had closed behind the doctor. Then she lifted her thin, blue-veined 
hands and clasped them beseechingly. "He can't understand. He's 
only a man. But you do, don't you? Please tell me the secret, and 
I'll never breathe it to a soul. Please!" 

What was I to do? I could not speak the conventionally comfort- 
ing phrases which would be of no comfort. Instead, I made her as 
physically easy as I could and promised to come back in a few days 
to talk with her again. A little later, when she slept, I tiptoed away. 

Night after night the wistful image of Mrs. Sachs appeared be- 
fore me. I made all sorts of excuses to myself for not going back. 
I was busy on other cases; I really did not know what to say to 
her or how to convince her of my own ignorance; I was helpless to 
avert such monstrous atrocities. Time rolled by and I did nothing. 

The telephone rang one evening three months later, and Jake 
Sachs' agitated voice begged me to come at once; his wife was sick 
again and from the same cause! \For a wild moment I thought of 
sending someone else, but actually, of course, I hurried into my uni- 
form, caught up my bag, and started out. All the way I longed for a 
subway wreck, an explosion, anything to keep me from having to 
enter that home again. But nothing happened, even to delay me. I 
turned into the dingy doorway and climbed the familiar stairs once 
more. The children were there, young little things. 

Mrs. Sachs was in a coma and died within ten minutes., I folded I 
her still hands across her breast, remembering how they had pleaded 



92 MARGARET SANGER 

with me, begging so humbly for the knowledge which was her right. 
I drew a sheet over her pallid face. Jake was sobbing, running his 
hands through his hair and pulling it out like an insane person. Over 
and over again he wailed, "My God ! My God ! My God !" 



I left him pacing desperately back and forth, and for hours I my- 
self walked and walked and walked through the hushed streets. 
When I finally arrived home and let myself quietly in, all the house- 
hold was sleeping. I looked out my window and down upon the 
dimly lighted city. Its pains and griefs crowded in upon me, a mov- 
ing picture rolled before my eyes with photographic clearness: 
women writhing in travail to bring forth little babies; the babies 
themselves naked and hungry, wrapped in newspapers to keep them 
from the cold; six-year-old children with pinched, pale, wrinkled 
faces, old in concentrated wretchedness, pushed into gray and fetid 
cellars, crouching on stone floors, their small scrawny hands scut- 
tling through rags, making lamp shades, artificial flowers; white 
coffins, black coffins, coffins, coffins interminably passing in never- 
ending succession. The scenes piled one upon another on another. 
I could bear it no longer. 

As I stood there the darkness faded. The sun came up and threw 
its reflection over the house tops. It was the dawn of a new day 
in my life also. The doubt and questioning, the experimenting and 
trying, were now to be put behind me. ft knew I could not go back 
merely to keeping people alive. , 

> I went to bed, knowing that no matter what it might cost, I was 
finished with palliatives and superficial cures ; I was resolved to seek 
out the root of evil, to do something to change the destiny of 



mothers whose miseries were vast as the sky. 



Chapter Eight 



I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP 



HOW were mothers to be saved? I went through many revolv- 
ing doors, looked around, and, not finding what I was seek- 
ing, came out again. I talked incessantly to everybody who seemed 
to have social welfare at heart. Progressive women whom I con- 
sulted were thoroughly discouraging. "Wait until we get the vote. 
Then we'll take care of that," they assured me. I tried the Social- 
ists. Here, there, and everywhere the reply came, "Wait until women 
have more education. Wait until we secure equal distribution of 
wealth." Wait for this and wait for that. Wait! Wait! Wait! 

Having no idea how powerful were the laws which laid a 
blanket of ignorance over the medical profession as well as the laity, 
I asked various doctors of my acquaintance, "Why aren't physicians 
doing something?" 

"The people you're worrying about wouldn't use contraception 
if they had it; they breed like rabbits. And, besides, there's a law 
against it." 

"Information does exist, doesn't it?" 

"Perhaps, but I doubt whether you can find it. Even if you do, 
you can't pass it on. Comstock'll get you if you don't watch out." 

In order to ascertain something about this subject which was 
so mysterious and so unaccountably forbidden, I spent almost a 
year in the libraries — the Astor, the Lenox, the Academy of Medi- 
cine, the Library of Congress, and dozens of others. Hoping that 

93 



94 MARGARET SANGER 

psychological treatises might inform me, I read Auguste Forel 
and Iwan Block. At one gulp I swallowed Havelock Ellis' Psychol- 
ogy of Sex, and had psychic indigestion for months thereafter. I 
was not shocked, but this mountainous array of abnormalities made 
me spiritually ill. So many volumes were devoted to the exceptional, 
and so few to the maladjustments of normal married people, which 
were infinitely more numerous and urgent. 

I read translations from the German in which women were ad- 
vised to have more children because it could be proved statistically 
that their condition was improved by childbearing! The only article 
on the question I could discover in American literature was in the 
Atlantic Monthly by Edward Alsworth Ross of the University of 
Wisconsin, who brought to the attention of his readers the decline 
of the birth rate among the upper and educated classes and the in- 
crease among the unfit, the consequences of which were sure to be 
race suicide. 

The Englishman, Thomas Robert Malthus, remained little more 
than a name to me, something like Plato or Henry George. Father 
had talked about him, but he meant mostly agriculture — wheat and 
food supplies in the national sense. Possibly he had a philosophy but 
not, to me, a live one. He had been put away on a shelf and, in my 
mind, had nothing to do with the everyday human problem. I was 
not looking for theories. What I desired was merely a simple method 
of contraception for the poor. 

The pursuit of my quest took me away from home a good deal. 
The children used to come in after school and at once hunt for me. 
"Where's mother?" was the usual question. If they found me at my 
mending basket they all leaped about for joy, took hands and danced, 
shouting, "Mother's home, mother's home, mother's sewing." Sew- 
ing seemed to imply a measure of permanence. 

I, too, wanted to drive away the foreboding barrier of separation 
by closer contact with them. I wanted to have them solely to myself, 
to feed, to bathe, to clothe them myself. I had heard of the clean, 
wind-swept Cape Cod dunes, which appeared to be as far from the 
ugliness of civilization as I could get. Socialism, anarchism, syndi- 
calism, progressivism — I was tired of them all. At the end of the 
spring, thoroughly depressed and dissatisfied, I tucked the children 



I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP 95 

under my arms, boarded a Fall River boat, and sailed off, a pioneer 
to Provincetown. 

In 191 3 the tip of the Cape was nothing but a fishing village with 
one planked walk which, I was told, had been paid for by Congress. 
Up and down its length the bellman, the last of the town criers, 
walked, proclaiming the news. 

At first we lived in the upper story of a fisherman's house right 
on the water. After he went out in the morning, his wife and her 
children, and I and mine, were left alone. Then the old women 
recalled scenes from their early days on the whaling vessels. Their 
mothers had brought them forth unaided, and their own sons, in 
turn, had been born on the ships and apprenticed to their husbands. 
They fitted into life simply, but the younger Portuguese, who were 
taking over the fishing industry, were asking what they should do 
about limiting their families. 

The village was rather messy and smelled of fish. I was still too 
close to humanity and wanted to be more alone, so we moved to the 
extreme end of town. Our veranda faced the Bay, and when the 
tide was high the water came up and lapped at the piles on which 
the cottage was built. Stuart, Grant, and Peggy used to sit on the 
steps and dabble their toes. At low tide they had two miles of beach 
on which to skip and run; it was a wonderful place to play, and all 
summer we had sunrise breakfasts, sunset picnics. 
^ Ethel, who had married Jack Byrne, was now widowed and had 
also gone into nursing. She had considerable free time and stayed 
with me. Consequently, I was able to leave the children in her care 
when I made my expeditions to Boston's far-famed public library, 
taking the Dorothy Bradford at noon, and coming back the next 
day. Even there I found no information more reliable than that ex- 
changed by back- fence gossips in any small town. 

I spent the entire season at Provincetown, groping for knowl- 
edge, classifying all my past activities in their proper categories, 
weighing the pros and cons of what good there was in them and 
also what they lacked. It was a period of gestation. Just as you give 
birth to a child, so you can give birth to an idea. 

Between interims of brooding and playing with the children I 
took part in the diversions of the minute colony of congenial peo- 



g6 MARGARET SANGER 

pie. Charles Hawthorne had a school of painting, and Mary Heaton 
Vorse with her husband, Joseph O'Brien, were there; so also were 
Hutch Hapgood and Neith Boyce. Jessie Ashley had lifted Big 
Bill Haywood out of the slough of the Paterson strike and brought 
him down to rest and recuperate. 

Big Bill was one of the few who saw what I was aiming at, al- 
though fearful that my future might involve the happiness of my 
children. Even he did not feel that the small- family question was 
significant enough to be injected into the labor platform. Neverthe- 
less, as we rambled up and down the beach he came to my aid with 
that cheering encouragement of which I was so sorely in need. He 
never wasted words in advising me to "wait." Instead, he suggested 
that I go to France and see for myself the conditions resulting 
from generations of family limitation in that country. This struck 
me as a splendid idea, because it would also give Bill Sanger a chance 
to paint instead of continuing to build suburban houses. 
r The trip to Europe seemed so urgent that no matter what sacrifices 
had to be made, we decided to make them when we came to them. 
In the fall we sold the house at Hastings, gave away some of our 
furniture and put the rest in storage. Although we did not realize 
it at the time, our gestures indicated a clean sweep of the past. 

Anita Block proposed that we go via Scotland ; she wanted me to 
write three or four articles on what twenty-five years of municipal 
ownership in Glasgow had done for women and children. Socialists 
were talking about how everything there belonged to the people 
themselves and had earned their own way — banks, schools, homes, 
parks, markets, art galleries, museums, laundries, bath houses, hos- 
pitals, and tramways. The city was about to pay off the last debt 
on the transportation system, and this was being hailed as a great 
victory, a perfect example of what Socialism could do. It sounded 
big and fine, and I, too, was impressed. Certainly in Glasgow, I 
thought, I should find women walking hand in hand with men, and 
children free and happy. 

In October the Sangers sailed from Boston on a cabin boat, little 
and crowded, and one black night two weeks later steamed up the 
Clyde. The naval program of 191 3 was causing every shipyard to 
run double shifts, and the flare and glare against the somber dark 



I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP 97 

was like fairyland — giant, sparkling starlights reaching from the 
horizon into the sky, a beautiful introduction to Utopia. 

The very next day I started out upon my investigationsj To mind 
the children, aged nine, five, and three, I availed myself of a sort 
of employment bureau run by the Municipal Corporation. I had 
been told that anyone could call here for any imaginable type of 
service. In response to my summons, there promptly arrived at my 
door, standing straight and machine-like, a small boy in a buttons 
uniform, with chin strap holding his cap on the side of his head. 
Willie MacGuire's stipend was to be twelve cents an hour, or fifty 
cents for the half day. His function was to take the three out, en- 
tertain them, and return them faithfully at any time designated. 
Though he was no bigger than Stuart, his efficient manner reas- 
sured me, and I soon learned that he performed his duties diligently. 

Religiously I made the rounds of all the social institutions, and 
at first everything appeared as I had been led to expect — except the 
weather. It had always just rained, and, when the sun did show itself, 
it was seldom for long enough to dry up the walks. Though the 
streets were clean, they were invariably wet and damp, and nobody 
wore rubbers. Everywhere could be seen little girls down on their 
knees, scrubbing the door-steps in front of the houses, or, again, 
carrying huge bundles or baskets of groceries to be delivered at the 
homes of the buyers. The people themselves seemed cold and rigid, 
as dismal as their climate. Only the policemen had a sense of humor. 

As I proceeded, flaws in the vaunted civic enterprises began to 
display themselves. Glasgow had its show beauty spots, but even 
the model tenements were not so good as our simplest, lower-middle- 
class apartment buildings. One had been constructed for the accom- 
modation of "deserving and respectable widows and widowers be- 
longing to the working class" having one or more children with 
no one to care for them while the parents were away. But the build- 
ing had been turned over to the exclusive use of widowers. Widows 
and their children had to shift for themselves. 

All tenements were planned scientifically on the basis of so many 
cubic feet of air and so much light per so many human beings, rang- 
ing from quarters for two to those for five. No overcrowding was 
allowed. 



98 MARGARET SANGER 

"Well," I asked, "what happens when there are five or six chil- 
dren?" 

"Oh, they can't live here," replied the superintendent. "They must 
go elsewhere." 

"But where?" 

Conversation ceased. 

With particular attention I traced the adventures of one family 
which had expanded beyond the three-child limit. The parents had first 
moved over to the fringes of the city, and thereafter as more chil- 
dren were born had traveled from place to place, progressively more 
dingy, more decrepit. They now had nine and were inhabiting a hovel 
in the shipbuilding slums, unimaginably filthy and too far from the 
splendid utilities ever to enjoy them. 

The further I looked, the greater grew the inconsistency. The 
model markets carried chiefly wholesale produce, and the really poor, 
who were obliged to huddle on the far side of the city, contented 
themselves with bread and tea and were thankful to have it. An- 
other disappointment was the washhouses, dating from 1878 when 
they had been deemed a public necessity because men had protested 
they were being driven from their homes by washing which, on ac- 
count of the incessant rain, seemed to hang there forever. A stall 
cost only twopence an hour, less expensive than heating water at 
home, and there were always women waiting in line. But the tram 
system, which was on the point of being liquidated in spite of its 
low fares, forbade laundry baskets, and, consequently, those who 
were not within walking distance — and they were the ones who 
needed it most — were deprived of its use. 

Throughout the slum section I saw drunken, sodden women 
whose remaining, snag-like teeth stuck down like fangs and pro- 
truded from their sunken mouths. When I asked one of the execu- 
tive officers of the corporation why they were so much more de- 
graded than the men, he replied, "Oh, the women of Glasgow are 
all dirty and low. They're hopeless." 

"But why should this be?" I persisted. 

His only answer was, "It's their own fault." 

Bill and I walked about late at night, overwhelmed by the un- 
speakable poverty. The streets were filled with fighting, shiftless beg- 



I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP 99 

gars. Hundreds of women were abroad, the big shawls over their 
heads serving two purposes: one, to keep their shoulders warm; 
the other, to wrap around the baby which each one carried. It was 
apparent that their clothing consisted only of a shawl, a petticoat, 
a wrapper, and shoes. Older children were begging, "A ha'penny 
for bread, Missus, a ha'penny for bread." 

It was infinitely cold, dreary, and disappointing — so much talk 
about more wages and better subsistence, and here the workers had 
it and what were they getting? — a little more light, perhaps, a few 
more pennies a day, the opportunity to buy food a little more 
cheaply, a few parks in which they could wander, a bank where 
their money earned a fraction more interest. But as soon as they 
passed beyond the border of another baby, they were in exactly the 
same condition as the people beyond the realm of municipal control. 

Municipal ownership was one more thing to throw in the discard. 

One dull, rainy day, glad to leave behind the shrill, crying voices 
of the beggars of Glasgow, we boarded a horrid cattle boat bound 
for Antwerp. The children were all seasick as we bounced and tossed 
over the North Sea. It was something of a job to handle the three 
of them with no nurse, especially when the storm threw them out 
of their beds on to the cabin v floor. Fortunately they suffered no 
fractures, although twenty-six horses in the hold had to be shot 
because their legs had been broken. 

We arrived at the Gare du Nord in Paris at the end of another 
dismal, bewildering day — toot-toot ! steam, luggage, brusque snatch- 
ing by blue-smocked, black-capped porters, all looking like villains, 
jam at the ticket gate, rackety taxi to a hotel on the Left Bank. 

Paris seemed another Glasgow, more like a provincial village than 
a great metropolis. The atmosphere of petty penury destroyed my 
dreams of Parisian gaiety and elegance; even the French children 
were dressed in drab, gloomy, black aprons. Within a few days 
we had sub-let an apartment on the Boulevard St. Michel across 
from the Luxembourg Gardens where Grant and Peggy could play. 
It was four flights up, and the cold penetrated to the marrow of our 
bones. We could put tons of briquets into the little fireplaces and 
never get any heat. All the family went into flannel underwear, the 
first since my early childhood. 



IOO MARGARET SANGER 

I presented Stuart to the superintendent of the district lycee. He 
demanded a birth certificate, and I had none. 

"But without it how can I tell where he was born or how old he 
is?" The official seemed to imply that Stuart did not exist. 

"But," I protested, "here he is. He's alive." 

"No, no, Madame ! The law says you must have a birth certificate." 

I had to send him to a private school, which was something of 
a drain on the budget. 

Bill found a studio on Montparnasse, just back of the Station. 
Again and again he came home aglow with news of meeting the 
great Matisse and other revolutionary painters barely emerging from 
obscurity. I trailed around to studios and exhibits occasionally, but 
I was trying to become articulate on my own subject, and paid scant 
attention to those who loomed up later as giants in the artistic world. 
The companionship of Jessie Ashley and Bill Haywood, who had 
just come to Paris, was more familiar to me. 

I was also eager to encounter French people and discover their 
points of view. One of the first was Victor Dave, the last surviving 
leader of the French Commune of 1871. Thanksgiving Day we 
had a little dinner party and invited American friends to greet him. 
He was then over eighty, but still keen and active. As the evening 
wore on we started him talking about his past experiences and he 
held us enthralled until way into the morning, when we all had 
breakfast in the apartment. 

The old Communard spoke English far better than any of us 
spoke French. He was now making three dollars a week by his 
linguistic abilities, because he was the sole person the Government 
could call upon not only for the language but the dialects of the 
Balkans. Just the day before he had been translating a new series of 
treaties which France was making with the Balkan States in a des- 
perate attempt to tie them to the Triple Entente. Though he was 
a philosophical person who could be gay over his own hardships, 
his confidences to us were serious and sad. From the agreements 
then being drawn up, particularly those with Rumania, he could see 
nothing but war ahead, predicting definitely that within five years 
all nations would be at each other's throats. We newcomers to Eu- 
rope could not grasp the meaning of his words, and the residents 



I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP IOI 

shrugged their shoulders and said, "He is getting old. He cannot 
see that we are now beyond war, that people are too intelligent ever 
to resort to it again." 

As I look back it is apparent that we heard in France the whole 
rumblings of the World War. Unrest was in the air as it had been 
in the United States, but with a difference. Theaters were showing 
anti-German plays, revanche placards decorated Napoleon's tomb 
in the Invalides, and the rusty black draperies around the shrouded 
statue of Strasbourg in the Place de la Concorde pointed a macabre 
note. These were remembered afterwards; at the time they were 
merely part of the Paris scene. 

I realized the disadvantage of not being better acquainted with 
the French language, and started in to practice what I knew and 
learn more. Good fortune brought me in touch with an English- 
woman, the wife of the editor of L'Humanite, the organ of the Con- 
federation Generate de Travail, the famous C.G.T. To her I clung 
and at her home I met the Socialist leader, Jean Jaures. His English 
was bad and my French worse; we had to have an interpreter. 
Doubtless we missed a lot, but even so we found we understood 
each other. I believe that his assassination on the eve of the war 
which he had done so much to prevent proved an irreparable loss 
to the cause of peace. 

In my language difficulties Jessie Ashley's fluency was an ever- 
present help. Together we used to eat in the restaurants frequented 
by laborers, who came in groups, keeping their caps on, enjoying the 
cheap and good food accompanied by wine. Often we were the only 
women in the place, always excepting the inevitable cashier. 

Though women were rarely seen at a C.G.T. meeting, Victor 
Dave took Jessie and me to a particularly impressive one which Bill 
Haywood was to address. His reputation as a firebrand had preceded 
him, and the police were making certain that no riot should ensue; 
they were stopping each person who crossed the bridge and de- 
manding an account of his destination. Our passport was the vener- 
able appearance of our escort, whose long white hair hung low 
about his head. His top hat, that universal badge of respectability, 
let us through. 

The vast auditorium was filled with some three thousand French 



102 MARGARET SANGER 

syndicalists, similar to the American I.W.W.'s, all standing, all wear- 
ing the uniform of the proletariat — black- visored caps and loose 
corduroys. They were being urged not to take up arms against the 
workers of other nations. I began to wonder whether perhaps the 
various tokens of disquiet which had impalpably surrounded me 
since coming to France had some more desperate meaning than we 
in America had realized. The War, What For? discussions in New 
York had seemed only a part of the evening conversations. Here again 
I was listening to protests against government efforts to arouse na- 
tional hatred by calling it patriotism. I had heard the words so often, 
" Workers of the World, Unite," yet at last I was vaguely uneasy be- 
cause of the difference in spirit. 

As we emerged into the narrow, alley-like street we found the 
exits into the boulevard guarded by hundreds of gendarmes, both 
mounted and afoot. Had any outbreak occurred, the assembled syn- 
dicalists would literally have been trapped. 

My uneasiness was increased as a result of a visit to the Hindu 
nationalist, Shyamaji Krishnavarma. In England he had been an 
agitator for Indian Home Rule and, when the London residence 
of the Viceroy of India had been bombed, with other Indians who 
might have been implicated, he had fled to France, so long the 
sanctuary for anyone who, because of political beliefs, got into 
trouble elsewhere. Krishnavarma was now editing the Indian So- 
ciologist, which was being secretly spirited across the Channel. 

Krishnavarma had asked whether he might be permitted to give 
a reception in my honor. No Hindu had ever given a reception in 
my honor. Trying to appear, however, as though this were a fre- 
quent occurrence, I set a time and bravely entered his salon, sup- 
ported, as usual, by Jessie. 

About twenty-five men were there, Indian students all, and only 
one other woman, Mrs. Krishnavarma, barely out of purdah and 
still in native dress. As a great concession she had been allowed to 
come in, despite the presence of men. It was evident she could listen 
but not speak, because, when I asked her something about her chil- 
dren, Krishnavarma answered for her quickly. A little later I was 
disputing a point with him and, to bolster up his argument, he gave 



I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP IO3 

her a curt command in Hindustani. She rose swiftly and soon re- 
turned with a well-thumbed and pencil-marked copy of Spencer. I 
had come to consider Spencer's philosophy old-fogyish. His teach- 
ings were so mild that I wondered what in the world he could ever 
have been hounded for. Though Krishnavarma was working 
towards the freedom of India he had gone no further than this 
pink tea which was not even pale China, let alone sturdy, black 
Ceylon. 

I had been home scarcely more than half an hour and was dress- 
ing for dinner when Peggy ran in animatedly. "Mother, there are 
three soldiers at the door!" The bright uniforms of the gendarmes 
had taken her fancy, and she was pleased and excited. When I went 
out to meet them they demanded to know where we had come from, 
the object of our visit to France, how long we intended to stay, in 
what manner we had located the apartment, from whom we had 
rented it, where I had been that afternoon, the length of time I had 
known Krishnavarma, and the reason for my being at his home. 
Finally, they explained their presence by saying the concierge had 
not sent in the required information to the prefecture. 

When I described the strange visitation to someone familiar with 
French customs, I was told that concierges were all ex officio agents 
of the police and were compelled to make regular reports of the 
activities, no matter how petty, of their tenants. These were in- 
corporated into the dossiers of all foreigners. Actually, the police, 
working with the British Secret Service, were checking up on 
Krishnavarma's callers. Thereafter gendarmes lingered in doorways 
outside our apartment, and wherever I went I was conscious they 
were in the vicinity. 

Because of the predilection of the French for quality rather than 
quantity, they had not only adopted the sociological definition of 
proletariat, "the prolific ones," a term originally applied by the 
Romans to the lowest class of society, but had interpreted it literally. 
The syndicalists in particular had made what they called conscious 
generation a part of their policy and principles, and had affiliated 
themselves with the Neo-Malthusian movement, which had its head- 
quarters in London. 



104 MARGARET SANGER 

The parents of France, almost on the same wage scale as those 
I had seen in Glasgow, had settled the matter to their own satisfac- 
tion. Their one or two children were given all the care and advan- 
tages of French culture. I was struck with the motherly attention 
bestowed by our femme de chambre upon her only child. She came 
promptly to work, but nothing could persuade her to arrive before 
Jean had been taken to his school, and nothing could prevent her 
leaving promptly at noon to fetch him for his luncheon, 
j When Bill Haywood began taking me into the homes of the syn- 
dicalists, I found perfect acceptance of family limitation and its re- 
lation to labor. V'Have you just discovered this?" I asked each 
woman I met. 

"Oh, no, Maman told me." 

"Well, who told her?" 

"Grandmere, I suppose." 

The Code Napoleon had provided that daughters should inherit 
equally with sons and this, to the thrifty peasant mind, had indicated 
the desirability of fewer offspring. Nobody would marry a girl 
unless she had been instructed how to regulate the numbers of her 
household as well as the home itself. 

Some of the contraceptive formulas which had been handed down 
were almost as good as those of today. Although they had to make 
simple things, mothers prided themselves on their special recipes 
for suppositories as much as on those for pot au feu or wine. 
/ All individual Frenchwomen considered this knowledge their in- 
dividual right, and, if it failed, abortion, which was still common. I 
talked about the problems of my own people, but they could give 
me no help, merely shrugging their shoulders, apparently glad they 
were living in France and not in the United States. This independ- 
ence of thought and action seemed wholly admirable to me at the 
time, and I sang the praises of the system. 

Bill was happy in his studio, but I could find no peace. Each day 
I stayed, each person I met, made it worse. A whole year had been 
given over to this inactive, incoherent brooding. Family and friends 
had been generous in patience. I had added to my personal ex- 
perience statistics from Glasgow and the little formulas I had gath- 
ered from the French peasants. With this background I had practi- 



I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP IO5 

cally reached the exploding point. I could not contain my ideas, I 
wanted to get on with what I had to do in the world, 
j The last day of the year, December 31, 191 3, Bill and I said 
good-by, unaware the parting was to be final. With the children I 
embarked at Cherbourg for home. 



Chapter Nine 



THE WOMAN REBEL 



'Oh you daughters of the West! 
O you young and elder daughters! you maidens and you 

women ! 
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united, 
Pioneers! O pioneers!" 

WALT WHITMAN 



THE New York was a nice ship and it was not too wintry to 
walk about on deck. After the children were safely in bed I 
paced round and round and absorbed into my being that quiet which 
comes to you at sea. That it was New Year's Eve added to the poign- 
ancy of my emotions but did not obscure the faith within. 
i I knew something must be done to rescue those women who were 
voiceless ; someone had to express with white hot intensity the con- 
viction that they must be empowered to decide for themselves when 
they should fulfill the supreme function of motherhood. They had 
to be made aware of how they were being shackled, and roused to 
mutiny. To this end I conceived the idea of a magazine to be called 
the Woman Reh A dedicated to the interests of working women. 

Often I had thought of Vashti as the first woman rebel in history. 
Once when her husband, King Ahasuerus, had been showing off to 
his people his fine linens, his pillars of marble, his beds of gold and 
silver, and all his riches, he had commanded that his beautiful 
Queen Vashti also be put on view. But she had declined to be ex- 
hibited as a possession or chattel. Because of her disobedience, which 
might set a very bad example to other wives, she had been cast aside 
and Ahasuerus had chosen a new bride, the meek and gentle Esther. 

I wanted each woman to be a rebellious Vashti, not an Esther; 

106 



THE WOMAN REBEL IO7 

was she to be merely a washboard with only one song, one song? 
Surely, she should be allowed to develop all her potentialities.^em- 
inists were trying to free her from the new economic ideology but 
were doing nothing to free her from her biological subs erv 1 *^ 11 ^ to 
man, which was the true cause of her enslavement. 
^ Before gathering friends around me for that help which I must 
have in stirring women to sedition, before asking them to believe, 
I had to chart my own course. Should I bring the cause to the atten- 
tion of the people by headlines and front pages? Should I follow my 
own compulsion regardless of extreme consequences? 

I fully recognized I must refrain from acts which I could not 
carry through. So many movements had been issuing defiances with- 
out any ultimate goal, shooting off a popgun here, a popgun there, 
and finally shooting themselves to death. They had been too greatly 
resembling froth — too noisy with the screech of tin horns and other 
cheap instruments instead of the deeper sounds of an outraged, 
angry, serious people. 

With as crystal a view as that which had come to me after the 
. death of Mrs. Sachs_ when I had renounced nursing forever.. I saw 
the path ahead in its civic, national, and even international direc- 
tion — a panorama of things to be. Fired with this vision, I went into 
the lounge and wrote and wrote page after page until the hours of 
daylight. 

Having settled the principles, I left the details to work themselves 
out. I realized that a price must be paid for honest thinking — a price 
for everything. Though I did not know exactly how I was to pre- 
pare myself, what turn events might take, or what I might be called 
upon to do, the future in its larger aspects has actually developed as 
I saw it that night. 

The same thoughts kept repeating themselves over and over dur- 
ing the remainder of the otherwise uneventful voyage. As soon as 
possible after reaching New York, I rented an inexpensive little flat 
on Post Avenue near Dyckman Street, so far out on the upper end 
of Manhattan that even the Broadway subway trains managed to 
burrow their way into sunlight and fresh air. My dining room was 
my office, the table my desk. 

A new movement was starting, and the baby had to have a name. 



108 MARGARET SANGER 

It did not belong to Socialism nor was it in the labor field, and it 
had much more to it than just the prevention of conception. As a 
few companions were sitting with me one evening we debated in 
turn voluntary parenthood, voluntary motherhood, the new mother- 
hood, constructive generation, and new generation. The terms al- 
ready in use — Neo-Malthusianism, Family Limitation, and Con- 
scious Generation seemed stuffy and lacked popular appeal. 

The word control was good, but I did not like limitation — that 
was too limiting. I was not advocating a one-child or two-child sys- 
tem as in France, /nor did( I wholeheartedly agree with the English 
Neo-Malthusians whose concern was almost entirely with limitation 
for economic reasons. My idea of control was bigger and freer. I 
wanted family in it, yet family control did not sound right. We 
tried population control, race control, and birth rate control. Then 
someone suggested, "Drop the rate." Birth control was the answer; 
we knew we had it. Our work for that day was done and everybody 
picked up his hat and went home. jThe baby was named. 

When I first announced that I was going to publish a maga- 
zine, "Where are you going to get the money?" was volleyed at 
me from all sides. I did not know, but I was certain of its coming 
somehow. Equally important was moral support. Those same young 
friends and I founded a little society, grandly titled the National 
Birth Control League, sought aid from enthusiasts for other causes, 
turning first to the Feminists because they seemed our natural allies. 
Armed with leaflets we went to Cooper Union to tell them that in 
the Woman Rebel they would have an opportunity to express their 
sentiments. 

[Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the Feminist leader, was trying to in- 
spire women in this country to have a deeper meaning in their lives, 
which to her signified more than getting the vote. Nevertheless, at 
that time I struck no responsive chord from her or from such . in- 
telligent co-workers as Crystal Eastman, Marie Howe, or Henrietta 
Rodman. It seemed unbelievable they could be serious in occupying 
themselves with what I regarded as trivialities when mothers within 
a stone's throw of their meetings were dying shocking deaths. 

Who cared whether a woman kept her Christian name — Mary 
Smith instead of Mrs. John Jones? Who cared whether she wore 



THE WOMAN REBEL I(X) 

her wedding ring? Who cared about her demand for the right to 
work? Hundreds of thousands of laundresses, cloakmakers, scrub 
women, servants, telephone girls, shop workers would gladly have 
changed places with the Feminists in return for the right to have 
leisure, to be lazy a little now and then..' When I suggested that the 
basis of Feminism might be the right to be a mother regardless of 
church or state, their inherited prejudices were instantly aroused. 
They were still subject to the age-old, masculine atmosphere com- 
pounded of protection and dominance.^ 

Disappointed in that quarter I turned to the Socialists and trade 
unionists, trusting they would appreciate the importance of family 
limitation in the kind of civilization towards which they were stum- 
bling. Notices were sent to The Masses, Mother Earth, The Call, 
The Arm and Hammer, The Liberator, all names echoing the spirit 
which had quickened them. 

. Shortly I had several hundred subscriptions to the Woman Rebel, 
paid up in advance at the rate of a dollar a year, the period for 
which I had made my plans. Proceeds were to go into a separate 
revolving account, scrupulously kept. Unlike so many ephemeral 
periodicals, mine was not to flare up and spark out before it had 
functioned, leaving its subscribers with only a few issues when they 
were entitled to more. Eventually we had a mailing list of about two 
thousand, but five, ten, even fifty copies often went in a bundle to be 
distributed without charge to some labor organization. \ 

I was solely responsible for the magazine financially, legally, and 
morally; I was editor, manager, circulation department, bookkeeper, 
and I paid the printer's bill. But any cause that has not helpers is 
losing out. So many men and women secretaries, stenographers, 
clerks, used to come in of an evening that I could not find room 
for all. Some typed, some addressed envelopes, some went to li- 
braries and looked up things for us to use, some wrote articles, 
though seldom signing their own names. [ Not one penny ever had 
to go for salaries, because service was given freely. 

In March, 1914, appeared the first issue of the Woman Rebel, 
eight pages on cheap paper, copied from the French style, mailed 
first class in the city and expressed outside. My initial declaration 
of the right of the individual was the slogan "No Gods, No Mas- 



HO MARGARET SANGER 

ters." Gods, not God. I wanted that word to go beyond religion 
and also stop turning idols, heroes, leaders into gods. 

I defined a woman's duty, "To look the world in the face with a 
go-to-hell look in the eyes ; to have an idea ; to speak and act in defi- 
ance of convention." It was a marvelous time to say what we wished. 
All America was a Hyde Park corner as far as criticism and chal- 
lenging thought were concerned. We advocated direct action and 
took up the burning questions of the day. With a fine sense of irony 
we put anti-capitalist soapbox oratory in print. I do not know 
whether the financiers we denounced would have been tolerant or 
resentful of our onslaughts had they read them, or as full of passion 
for their cause as we for ours. Perhaps they too will have forgotten 
that emotion now. 

My daily routine always started with looking over the pile of 
mail, and one morning my attention was caught by an unstamped 
official envelope from the New York Post Office. I tore it open. 

/ Dear Madam, You are hereby notified that the Solicitor of the 
/Post Office Department has decided that the Woman Rebel for March, 
\1914, is unmailable under Section 489, Postal Laws and Regulations. 

E. M. Morgan, Postmaster. 

I reread the letter. It was so unexpected that at first the signifi- 
cance did not sink in. I had given no contraceptive information; I 
had merely announced that I intended to do so. Then I began to 
realize that no mention was made of any special article or articles. 
I wrote Mr. Morgan and asked him to state what specifically had 
offended, thereby assisting me in my future course. His reply simply 
repeated that the March issue was unmailable. 

I had anticipated objections from religious bodies, but believed 
with father, "Anything you want can be accomplished by putting a 
little piece of paper into the ballot box." Therefore, to have our in- 
significant magazine stopped by the big, strong United States Gov- 
ernment seemed so ludicrous as almost to make us feel important. 
To the newspaper world this was news, but not one of the dailies 
j picked it out as an infringement of a free press. The Sun carried a 
^headline, " 'WOMAN REBEL' BARRED FROM MAILS." And 



THE WOMAN REBEL III 



underneath the comment, "Too bad. The case should be reversed. They 
should be barred from her and spelled differently." <v 

Many times I studied Section 211 of the Federal Statutes, under A 
which the Post Office was acting. This penal clause of the Comstock I 
Law had been left hanging in Washington like the dried shell of a 
tortoise. Its grip had even been tightened on the moral side ; in case I 
the word obscene should prove too vague, its definition had been / 
enlarged to include the prevention of conception and the causing of / 
abortion under one and the same heading ? / To me it was outrageous w 
that information regarding motherhood, which was so generally / 
called sacred, should be classed with pornography .\ ^fC 

Nevertheless, I had not broken the law, because it did not pro- 
hibit discussion of contraception — merely giving advice. I harbored 
a burning desire to undermine that law. But if I continued publica- 
tion I was making myself liable to a Federal indictment and a pos- 
sible prison term of five years plus a fine of five thousand dollars. 
I had to choose between abandoning the Woman Rebel, changing its 
tone, or continuing as I had begun. Though I had no wish to be- 
come a martyr, with no hesitation I followed the last-named course. 

I gathered our little group together. At first we assumed Com- 
stock had stopped the entire issue before delivery, but apparently 
he had not, because only the A to M's which had been mailed in 
the local post office had been confiscated. \We took a fresh lot down- 
town, slipped three into one chute, four in another, walked miles 
around the city so that no single box contained more than a few 
copies. \ 

The same procedure had to be pursued in succeeding months. 
Sometimes daylight caught me, with one or more assistants, still 
tramping from the printer's and dropping the copies, piece by piece, 
into various boxes and chutes. I felt the Government was absurd 
and tyrannical to make us do this for no good purpose. I could not 
get used to its methods then. I have not yet, and probably never shall. 

The Woman Rebel produced extraordinary results, striking vibra- 
tions that brought contacts, messages, inquiries, pamphlets, books, 
even some money. I corresponded with the leading Feminists of 
Europe — Ellen Key, then at the height of her fame, Olive Schreiner, 



112 MARGARET SANGER 

Mrs. Pankhurst, Rosa Luxemburg, Adele Schreiber, Clara Zetkin, 
Roszika Schwimmer, Frau Maria Stritt. But I also heard from 
sources and groups I had hardly known existed — Theosophist, New 
Thought, Rosicrucian, Spiritualist, Mental Scientist. It was not 
alone from New York, but from the highways and byways of north, 
south, east, and west that inspiration came. 

; After the second number the focus had been birth control. Within 
six months we had received over ten thousand letters, arriving in 
accelerating volume. Most of them read, "Will your magazine give 
accurate and reliable information to prevent conception?," This I 
could not print. Realizing by now it was going to be a fairly big 
fight, I was careful not to break the law on such a trivial point. It 
would have been ridiculous to have a single letter reach the wrong 
destination; therefore, I sent no contraceptive facts through the 
mails. 

y However, I had no intention of giving up this primary purpose. 
| I began sorting and arranging the material I had brought back 
from France, complete with formulas and drawings, to be issued 
in a pamphlet where I could treat the subject with more delicacy 
than in a magazine, writing it for women of extremely circum- 
scribed vocabularies. A few hundred dollars were needed to finance 
publication of Family Limitation, as I named it, and I approached 
Theodore Schroeder, a lawyer of standing and an ardent advocate 
of free speech. He had been left a fund by a certain Dr. Foote who 
had produced a book on Borning Better Babies, and I thought my 
pamphlet might qualify as a beneficiary. 

Dr. Abraham Brill was just then bringing out a translation of 
Freud, in whom Schroeder was much interested. He asked whether 
I had been psychoanalyzed. 

"What is psychoanalysis ?" 

He looked at me critically as from a great height. "You ought to 
be analyzed as to your motives. If, after six weeks, you still wish to 
publish this pamphlet, I'll pay for ten thousand copies." 

"Well, do you think I won't want to go on ?" 

"I don't only think so. I'm quite sure of it." 

"Then I won't be analyzed." 

I took the manuscript to a printer well known for his liberal 



THE WOMAN REBEL 113 

tendencies and courage. He read the contents page by page and said, 
"You'll never get this set up in any shop in New York. It's a Sing X 
Sing job." 

Every one of the twenty printers whom I tried to persuade was 
afraid to touch it. It was impossible ever, it seemed, to get into 
print the contents of that pamphlet. 

i Meanwhile, following the March issue the May and July numbers 
of the Woman Rebel had also been banned. In reply to each of the 
formal notices I inquired which particular article or articles had 
incurred disapproval, but could obtain no answer. | -^ 

At that time I visualized the birth control movement as part of 
the fight for freedom of speech, flow much would the postal au- 
thorities suppress? What were they really after? I was determined 
to prod and goad until some definite knowledge was obtained as to 
what was "obscene, lewd, and lascivious." • — - 

Theodore Schroeder and I used to meet once in a while at the 
Liberal Club, and he gave much sound advice — I could not go on 
with the Woman Rebel forever. Eventually the Post Office would 
wear me down by stopping the issues as fast as I printed them. He 
warned, "They won't do so and so unless you do thus and thus. If 
you do such and such, then you'll have to take the consequences." 
He was a good lawyer and an authority on the Constitution. 

When my^famil^-Jearned that I might be getting in deep water 
a council was called just as when I had been a child. A verdict of 
nervous breakdown was openly decreed, but back in the minds of 
all was the unspoken dread that I must have become mentally un- 
balanced. They insisted father come to New York, where he had 
not been for forty years, to persuade me to go to a sanitarium. 

For several days father and I talked over the contents of the 
Woman Rebel. In his fine, flowing language he expressed his hatred 
of it. He despised talk about revolution, and despaired of anyone 
who could discuss sex, blaming this on my nursing training, which, 
he intimated, had put me in possession of all the known secrets of 
the human body. He was not quite sure what birth control was, and 
my reasoning, which retraced the pattern of our old arguments, 
made no impression upon him. 

Father would have nothing to do with the "queer people" who 



114 MARGARET SANGER 

came to the house — people of whom no one had ever heard — turn- 
ing up with articles on every possible subject and defying me to 
publish them in the name of free speech. I printed everything. For 
the August issue I accepted a philosophical essay on the theory of 
assassination, largely derived from Richard Carlile. It was vague, 
inane, and innocuous, and had no bearing on my policy except to 
taunt the Government to take action, because assassination also was 
included under Section 211. 

Only a few weeks earlier, the war which Victor Dave had pre- 
dicted had started its headlong progress. The very moment when 
most people were busy with geographies and atlases, trying to find 
out just where Sarajevo might be, the United States chose to sever 
diplomatic relations with me. 

One morning I was startled by the peremptory, imperious, and 
incessant ringing of my bell. When I opened the door, I was con- 
fronted by two gentlemen. 

"Will you come in?" 

They followed me into my living room, scrutinized with amaze- 
ment the velocipede and wagon, the woolly animals and toys stacked 
_,in the corner. One of them asked, "Are you the editor and publisher 
of a magazine entitled the Woman Rebel?" 

When I confessed to it, he thrust a legal document into my hands. 
I tried to read it, threading my way slowly through the jungle of 
legal terminology. Perhaps the words became a bit blurred because 
of the slight trembling of my hands, but I managed to disentangle 
the crucial point of the message.fi had been indicted — indicted on no 
less than nine counts — for alleged violation of the Federal Statutes. 
If found guilty on all, I might be liable to forty-five years in the 

m m \ 

penitentiary. \ 

I looked at the two agents of the Department of Justice. They 
seemed nice and sensible. I invited them to sit down and started in 
to explain birth control. For three hours I presented to their im- 
aginations some of the tragic stories of conscript motherhood. I 
forget now what I said, but at the end they agreed that such a 
law should not be on the statute books. Yet it was, and there was 
nothing to do about it but bring my case to court. 

When the officers had gone, father came through the door of the 



THE WOMAN REBEL 115 

adjoining room where he had been reading the paper. He put both 
arms around me and said, ''Your mother would have been alive to- 
day if we had known all this then." He had applied my recital di- 
rectly to his own life. "You will win this case. Everything is with 
you — logic, common sense, and progress. I never saw the truth 
until this instant." 

Old-fashioned phraseology, but father was at last convinced.. He 
went home quite proud, thinking I was not so crazy after all, and 
began sending me clippings to help prove the case for birth control 
— women who had drowned themselves or their children and the 
brutalities of parents, because even mother love might turn cruel if 
too hard pressed. 

My faith was still childlike. I trusted that, like father, a judge 
representing our Government would be convinced. All I had to do 
was explain to those in power what I was doing and everything 
would come right. 

August twenty-fifth I was arraigned in the old Post Office way 
downtown. Judge Hazel, himself a father of eight or nine children, 
was kindly, and I suspected the two Federal agents who had sum- 
moned me had spoken a good word on my behalf. But Assistant 
District Attorney Harold A. Content seemed a ferocious young fel- 
low. When the Judge asked, "What sort of things is Mrs. Sanger 
doing to violate the law?" he answered, "She's printing articles ad- 
vocating bomb throwing and assassination." 

"Mrs. Sanger doesn't look like a bomb thrower or an assassin." 

Mr. Content murmured something about not all being gold that 
glittered; I was doing a great deal of harm. He intimated he knew 
of my attempts to get Family Limitation in print when he said, "She 
is not satisfied merely to violate the law, but is planning to do it on 
a very large scale." 

Judge Hazel, apparently believing the charges much exaggerated, 
put the case over until the fall term, which gave me six weeks to 
prepare my answer, and Mr. Content concurred, saying that if this 
were not enough time, I could have more. 

The press also was inclined to be friendly. Reporters came up 
to Post Avenue, looked over the various articles. They agreed, "We 
think the Government absolutely wrong. We don't see how it has 



Il6 MARGARET SANGER 

any case." Unfortunately, while we were talking, Peggy, who had 
never seen a derby before, took possession of their hats and sticks, 
and in the hall a little parade of children formed, marching up and 
down in front of the door. One of the gentlemen was so furious that 
I hid Peggy in the kitchen away from his wrath. As he went out 
he remarked, "You should have birth controlled them before they 
were born. Why don't you stay home and spend some thought on 
disciplining your own family?" 

I had many things to do which could not be postponed, the most 
important among them being to provide for the children's future. 
This occupied much of my time for the next few weeks. Temporar- 
ily, I sent the younger two to the Catskills and Stuart to a camp 
in Maine, arranging for school in the fall on Long Island. 

[ Defense funds were always being raised when radicals got into 
trouble to pay pseudo-radical lawyers to fight the cases on techni- 
calities. I was not going to have any lawyer get me out of this. 
Since my indictment had not stopped my publishing the Woman 
Rebel, through the columns of the September issue I told my sub- 
scribers I did not want pennies or dollars, but appealed to them to 
combine forces and protest on their own behalf against government 
invasion of their rights. That issue and the October one were both 
suppressed, i 

During what might be called my sleepwalking stage it was as 
though I were heading towards a precipice and nothing could awaken 
me. I had no ear for the objections of family or the criticism of 
friends. People were around me, I knew, but I could not see them 
clearly; I was deaf to their warnings and blind to their signs. 

When I review the situation through the eyes of those who gave 
me circumspect advice, I can understand their attitude. I was con- 
sidered a conservative, even a bourgeoise by the radicals. I was dig- 
ging into an illegal subject, was not a trained writer or speaker or 
experienced in the arts of the propagandist, had no money with 
which to start a rousing campaign, and possessed neither social posi- 
tion nor influence. 

In the opinion of nearly all my acquaintances I would have to 
spend at least a year in jail, and they began to condole with me. 
None offered to do anything about it, just suggested how I could get 



THE WOMAN REBEL WJ 

through. One kind woman whom I had never seen before called late 
one evening and volunteered to give me dancing lessons. In a small 
six-by-four cabin she had developed a system which she claimed 
was equally applicable to a prison cell and would keep me in good 
health. She even wrote out careful directions for combining proper 
exercises with the rhythm of the dance. 

But I myself had no intention of going to jail; it was not in my 
program. 

j One other thing I had to do before my trial. Family Limitation 
simply must be published. I had at last found the right person — Bill 
Shatoff, Russian-born, big and burly, at that time a linotype oper- 
ator on a foreign paper. So that nobody would see him he did the 
job after hours when his shop was supposed to be closed. 

At first I had thought only of an edition of ten thousand. How- 
ever, when I learned that union leaders in the silk, woolen, and cop- 
per industries were eager to have many more copies to distribute, I 
enlarged my plan. I would have liked to print a million but, owing 
to lack of funds, could not manage more than a hundred thousand. 

Addressing the envelopes took a lot of work. Night after night 
the faithful band labored in a storage room, wrapping, weighing, 
stamping. Bundles went to the mills in the East, to the mines of the 
West — to Chicago, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh, to Butte, Law- 
rence, and Paterson. All who had requested copies were to receive 
them simultaneously; I did not want any to be circulated until I 
was ready, and refused to have one in my own house. I was a tyrant 
about this, as firm as a general about leaving no rough edges. 

In October my case came up. I had had no notice and, without a 
lawyer to keep me posted, did not even know it had been called 
until the District Attorney's office telephoned. Since Mr. Content 
had promised me plenty of time, I thought this was merely a for- 
mality and all I had to do was put in an appearance. 

The next morning I presented myself at court. As I sat in the 
crowded room I felt crushed and oppressed by an intuitive sense of 
the tremendous, impersonal power of my opponents. Popular inter- 
est was now focused on Europe; my little defiance was no longer 
important. When I was brought out of my reverie by the voice of 
the clerk trumpeting forth in the harshly mechanical tones of a 



Il8 MARGARET SANGER 

train announcer something about The People v. Margaret Sanger, 
there flashed into my mind a huge map of the United States, com- 
ing to life as a massive, vari-colored animal, against which I, so 
insignificant and small, must in some way defend myself. It was a 
terrific feeling. 

But courage did not entirely desert me. Elsie Clapp, whose ample 
Grecian figure made her seem a tower of strength, marched up the 
aisle with me as though she, too, were to be tried. I said to Judge 
Hazel that I was not prepared, and asked for a month's adjournment. 
Mr. Content astonished me by objecting. "Mrs. Sanger's had plenty 
of time and I see no reason, Your Honor, why we should have a 
further postponement. Every day's delay means that her violations 
are increased. I ask that the case continue this afternoon." 

A change in Judge Hazel's attitude had taken place since August. 
Instead of listening to my request, he advised me to get an attorney 
at once — my trial would go on after the noon recess. 

I was so amazed that I could only believe his refusal was due to 
my lack of technical knowledge, and supposed that at this point I 
really had to have a lawyer. I knew Simon H. Pollock, who had 
represented labor during the Paterson strike, and I went to see him. 
He agreed with me that a lawyer's plea would not be rejected and 
that afternoon confidently asked for a month's stay. It was denied. 
He reduced it to two weeks. Again it was denied. At ten the follow- 
ing morning the case was to be tried without fail. 

From the Post Office Department I received roundabout word 
that my conviction had already been decided upon. When I told this 
to Mr. Pollock he said, "There isn't a thing I can do. You'd better 
plead guilty and let us get you out as fast as we can. We might 
even be able to make some deal with the D.A. so you'd only have 
to pay a fine." 

I indignantly refused to plead guilty under any circumstances. 
What was the sense of bringing about my indictment in order to 
test the law, and then admit that I had done wrong? I was trying 
to prove the law was wrong, not I. Giving Mr. Pollock no direc- 
tions how to act, I merely said I would call him up. 

It was now four o'clock and I sought refuge at home to think 
through my mental turmoil and distress. But home was crowded 



THE WOMAN REBEL IIO, 

with too many associations and emotions pulling me this way and 
that. When my thoughts would not come clear and straight I packed 
a suitcase, went back downtown, and took a room in a hotel, the 
most impersonal place in the world. 

There was no doubt in my mind that if I faced the hostile court 
the next morning, unprepared as I was, I would be convicted of pub- 
lishing an obscene paper. Such a verdict would be an injustice. If I 
were to convince a court of the rightness of my cause, I must have 
my facts well marshaled, and that could not be done in eighteen hours. 

Then there was the question of the children's welfare. Had I the 
right to leave them the heritage of a mother who had been im- 
prisoned for some offensive literature of which no one knew the 
details ? 

What was I to do? Should I get another lawyer, one with per- 
sonal influence who could secure a "postponement, and should we 
then go into court together and fight it out? I had no money for 
such a luxury. Should I follow the inevitable suggestion of the 
"I-told-you-so's" and take my medicine? Yes, but what medicine? 
I would not swallow a dosage for the wrong disease. 

I was not afraid of the penitentiary; I was not afraid of any- 
thing except being misunderstood. Nevertheless, in the circum- 
stances, my going there could help nobody. I had seen so many peo- 
ple do foolish things valiantly, such as wave a red flag, shout 
inflammatory words, lead a parade, just for the excitement of do- 
ing what the crowd expected of them. Then they went to jail for six 
months, a year perhaps, and what happened? Something had been 
killed in them ; they were never heard of again. I had seen braver and 
hardier souls than I vanquished in spirit and body by prison terms, 
and I was not going to be lost and broken for an issue which 
was not the real one, such as the entirely unimportant Woman Rebel 
articles. Had I been able to print Family Limitation earlier, and to 
swing the indictment around that, going to jail might have had some 
significance. 

Going away was much more difficult than remaining. But if I 
were to sail for Europe I could prepare my case adequately and re- 
turn then to win or lose in the courts. There was a train for Canada 
within a few hours. Could I take it? Should I take it? Could I ever 



120 MARGARET SANGER 

make those who had advised me against this work and these activi- 
ties understand? Could I ever make anyone understand? How 
could I separate myself from the children without seeing them 
once more? Peggy's leg was swollen from vaccination. This kept 
worrying me, made me hesitate, anxious. It was so hard to decide 
what to do. 

Perfectly still, my watch on the table, I marked the minutes fly. 
There could be no retreat once I boarded that train. The torture of 
uncertainty, the agony of making a decision only to reverse it! 
The hour grew later and later. This was like both birth and death — 
you had to meet them alone. 

| About thirty minutes before train time I knew that I must go. 
I wrote two letters, one to Judge Hazel, one to Mr. Content, to be 
received at the desk the next day, informing them of my action. 
I had asked for a month and it had been refused. This denial of 
right and freedom compelled me to leave my home and my three 
children until I made ready my case, which dealt with society rather 
than an individual. I would notify them when I came back. Whether 
this were in a month or a year depended on what I found it necessary 
to do. Finally, as though to say, "Make the most of it," I enclosed 
to each a copy of Family Limitation. 

Parting from all that I held dear in life, I left New York at mid- 
night, without a passport, not knowing whether I could ever return. 



Chapter Ten 



WE SPEAK THE SAME GOOD TONGUE 



>VV, ,v\\ .>V> ->V\ . VV\ . XV V - >V \ . >\\ -\V\ ,>VV AVV ,\V\ ,>V\ J 

'iit 'tit Hi Hi Hi tit tit Hi it/ tit 'tit tit tit " 

) 

AT Montreal I found comfort and refuge. In fact, on any road 
jT\. I took men and women who knew about the Woman Rebel 
came to my aid. I shall never forget the generosity of the Baineses who 
met me at the train and welcomed me to their home. They had been 
friends of Walt Whitman and still honored "his" memory. I sat at 
the table where "he" had sat, and in "his" chair. Among their many 
kindnesses they gave me an introduction to Edward Carpenter, also 
mentioned in awed tones, leader of the Whitman group in England 
and author of Love's Coming of Age, which was then on every mod- 
ern bookshelf. 

Since I was charged with felony I could be extradited. I was 
obliged, therefore, in buying my passage, to choose a new name. No 
sooner had I selected the atrociously ugly "Bertha Watson," which 
seemed to rob me of femininity, than I wanted to be rid of it. But 
once having adopted it I could not escape. 

I boarded the RMS Virginian, laden with munitions, food, Eng- 
lishmen returning home for war duty, and Canadians going over. 
Even before the printing of Family Limitation had begun in August, 
I had arranged a key message which would release all the pamphlets 
simultaneously whenever it should be received by any of four trusted 
lieutenants. In case one should be arrested, another ill, or a third 
die, still everything would go forward as provided for. Three days 

121 



122 MARGARET SANGER 

out of Montreal I sent a cable and shortly had one in reply that the 
program was being executed as planned. My soul was sick and my 
heart empty for those I loved; the one gleam in this dreadful night 
of despair was the faint hope that my efforts might, perhaps, make 
Peggy's future easier. 

The government official examining credentials at Liverpool said 
sternly, "England is at war, Madam. You can't expect us to let you 
through. We're sending back people without passports every day, and 
I can't make an exception in your case." 

But I had Good Luck as an ally; she comes so often to help in 
emergencies. A shipboard acquaintance telephoned and pulled wires, 
a procedure not so common in England as in the United States. On 
his guarantee that I would get a passport from the American Em- 
bassy immediately on reaching London I was allowed to enter. 

I wound through dirty streets in a cab to the Adelphi Palace. It 
rained all day, the wind blew, its howling came through the windows 
and crept down the chimney. Homesickness swept over me worse 
than ever before or since. I knew it would not do to "set and think" 
as the Quakers say, so I wandered about in the business district, try- 
ing to adjust my mind to the prices marked in the store windows in 
order to have some idea of what they were in dollars and cents. I 
viewed church architecture and the Cathedral, which was not ex- 
pected to be finished for fifty years. It did not look so splendid, but 
since everything about it was closed I really could not tell. 

Liverpool was a quaint city. I liked its weathered brick houses, 
and the evenness and settled feeling, as though the people in them 
planned to remain where they were for time everlasting. The women 
of the poor were unconcernedly wearing on the streets dresses orig- 
inally made for bustles, hats with feathers, caricatures which should 
have been stuffed away in attics forty years before. 

Bertha Watson had a letter to the local Fabian Society, and at six 
I went to the Clarion Cafe, where it foregathered each Friday. I pre- 
sented her letter, was welcomed heartily, and invited to the discussion. 
I found the English then and later polite in speech and action, toler- 
ant in listening. One of the members helped me to locate temporary 
rooms while I waited for the arrival of letters and messages from the 
United States. These lodgings were in the home of gentle, middle- 



WE SPEAK THE SAME GOOD TONGUE 1 23 

class people to whom I paid thirty shillings a week, including break- 
fast and dinner. 

I shall always be glad I went to that meeting, because there I met 
Lorenzo Portet, once companion of Francisco Ferrer and now heir 
to his educational work, which both believed was the key to Spanish 
emancipation. 

After the attempted assassination of Alfonso XIII and Victoria 
of England, the Government had arrested twenty-five hundred Span- 
iards having republican ideas, among them Ferrer. His school had 
been closed and he had been jailed. When he had been eventually re- 
leased, he had still been determined to educate for universal peace 
by means of economic justice. Accordingly, as Portet stated it, he 
had reopened a school for all Spain by publishing labor texts at Barce- 
lona. This again had earned him no reward from a grateful Govern- 
ment. In 1909 he had been arrested in a purge of republicans, stood 
up against a wall and shot, and his body thrown into a ditch. 

Ferrer had left his money to Portet, who was now fulfilling his 
trust by feeding the country with modern scientific translations from 
Italy, France, and England. He was a man of middle height and 
weight whose alert glance summed you up with an accuracy occa- 
sionally disturbing. After our initial encounter he called on me with 
punctiliousness and formality, and produced an article from a New 
York magazine which carried the story of the indictment of Mar- 
garet Sanger. "This is you?" he questioned with the jumping of all 
fact which is termed intuition. 

Portet, a born teacher, was then instructing youth at the Uni- 
versity of Liverpool in Spanish. No human being I ever knew could 
explain with such infinite pains the details of a subject. He placed 
your own opposition before you, marshaled it in all its strength, and 
then annihilated every point, one by one. His humorous cynicism was 
most baffling to those who were merely emotional converts to better 
worlds. "Civilization?" he might say, "Mainly a question of good 
roads." 

Sometimes in the midst of those long, drab, November weeks I 
escaped to Wales, where there were endless lanes, winding and hard, 
with very few carts, and all very quiet. Even here were Carnegie li- 
braries, one of them turned into a restaurant. I went into the houses 



124 MARGARET SANGER 

of the smelting workers at Green Brombo, Wexham, all lovely, mi- 
nute, stone cottages of two or three rooms, huddled closely together, 
charming with their walks and walls and flower gardens. The folk 
were slow, deliberate, simple. 

Liverpool was only a junction; London was my terminus. There 
I could study at the British Museum, and meet the Neo-Malthusians. 
Towards the end of the month I rolled up to London through miles 
of chimney-potted suburbs; it continued rainy and foggy, but still 
there was a friendly atmosphere in the air. I seemed to be coming to 
a second home. 

My first quarters were on the top floor of a "bed and breakfast" 
on Torrington Square, just back of the British Museum. I looked 
out on little rows of trees, iron fences, steps going up to all the 
houses. There was but one bathroom and to use it cost extra. Every 
morning about seven came a knock, and when I opened the door I 
discovered a midget jug of hot water outside. I was supposed to break 
the ice on my large pitcher, mix the two, and pour all into my tin 
tub, the back of which rose behind me like a throne. After this winter 
I realized how the British had acquired their well-known moral 
courage. 

I had no fireplace, but two floors below was an empty room with 
a grate. Occasionally I indulged myself in the luxury of renting it 
for the evening, and of buying wood to keep myself warm while I 
worked. I made up for it by not having the slatternly Cockney maid 
bring up tea, and also went each morning to the basement dining 
room for my breakfast, thereby saving a shilling a week. It was not 
long before I was stricken by the first digestive upset I had ever had, 
and was obliged to call in an American doctor. He looked me over 
casually and then, without further examination, asked, "Have you 
been drinking English coffee?" 

"Why, yes." 

"Well, give it up. The English can't make coffee ; they only know 
how to make tea. Take up English tea." 

I followed his advice and from that time on, instead of carrying 
my own eating habits with me, have tried to adjust myself to the 
food of the country where I happened to be. In this way I g&t along 
much better, 



WE SPEAK THE SAME GOOD TONGUE 1 25 

Sundays I attended concerts or visited art galleries, though since 
it was war time disappointingly few pictures were being shown. Each 
week day, however, found me at the British Museum, going in with 
the opening of the gates in the morning. In order to secure permis- 
sion to work, you had to have a card, but once you obtained it, you 
could take a special seat and books were reserved for you. My aim 
was to present my case from all angles, to make the trial soundly his- 
torical so that birth control would be seriously discussed in America. 
Therefore, I read avidly and voluminously many weighty tomes, and 
turned carefully the yellowed, brittle pages of pamphlets and broad- 
sides, finding much that was dull, much that was irrelevant, but also 
much that was amusing, if only for the ponderous manner of its ex- 
pression. In the end I had a picture of what had gone before. 

The father of family limitation was Thomas Robert Malthus, 
born in 1766 at the Rookery, near Dorking, Surrey. In 1798 this 
curate of Albury published his Principle of Population and in the 
initial chapter laid down his famous postulates : "first, that food 
is necessary to the existence of ihan; second, that the passion be- 
tween the sexes is necessary, and will remain nearly in its present 
state. . . ." Consequently the unrestrained fertility of the human 
race was certain to outstrip the available fruits of the earth, and, 
although the natural checks of war, disease, and privation had con- 
trolled population for centuries, they had brought misery, disaster, 
and death in their train. His solution was voluntary and intelligent 
control of the birth rate by means of late marriage, which left few 
years for childbearing. However, human nature is such that Malthus 
might preach forever without anyone's heeding his advice. Not un- 
til the profound economic depression which followed the Napoleonic 
Wars were people worried into concern over surplus population. 

To John Stuart Mill the production of large families was to be re- 
garded in the same light as drunkenness or any other physical excess. 
In the very first edition of his Political Economy he spoke of "pru- 
dence, by which either marriages are sparingly contracted, or care is 
taken that children beyond a certain number shall not be the fruit," 
and concluded that "the grand practical problem is to find the means 
of limiting the number of births." But he left it merely as a grand, 
practical problem. 



126 MARGARET SANGER 

Francis Place, the master tailor of Charing Cross, was born in a 
private debtors' prison kept by his father in Vinegar Yard. He was 
the first to suggest the idea of contraception as a remedy for pov- 
erty, but was more practical in his preaching than in his perform- 
ance, fathering as he did fifteen children. In 1822 he published Illus- 
trations and Proofs of the Principle of Population: 

If, above all, it were once clearly understood, that it was not dis- 
reputable for married persons to avail themselves of such precaution- 
ary means as would, without being injurious to health, or destructive 
of female delicacy, prevent conception, a sufficient check might at 
once be given to the increase of population beyond the means of sub- 
sistence ; vice and misery, to a prodigious extent, might be removed 
from society, and the object of Mr. Malthus, Mr. Godwin, and of 
every philanthropic person, be promoted. 

Place had educated himself on Adam Smith, Locke, Hume, 
Thomas Paine, and Burke. To his remarkable library came many 
notable thinkers and men of letters. Among them was Robert Owen, 
the textile industrialist, who, in his Moral Physiology, offered openly 
a method of contraception : 

I sit down to write a little treatise, which will subject me to abuse 
from the self-righteous, to misrepresentation from the hypocritical, 
and to reproach even from the honestly prejudiced. 

He spoke to young men and women who still believed in virtue 
and happiness. "A human being is a puppet, a slave, if his ignorance 
is to be the safeguard of his virtue." In reply to the accusation that 
coitus interruptus was unnatural, he pointed out that the thwarting 
of any human wish or impulse might be so termed. "If this trifling 
restraint is to be called unnatural, what shall be said of celibacy?" 

Owen in his youth had been impressed by the sufferings of the 
working classes, and, in a first effort to lighten the burden of his em- 
ployees, had instituted many reforms in the New Lanark Mills, him- 
self prospering materially in so doing ; he was less successful when he 
emigrated to the United States and at New Harmony, Indiana, estab- 
lished a short-lived communal colony. However, his coming to 
America had at least one important result. His book influenced Doctor 
Charles Knowlton of Boston to write a tract entitled Fruits of Phi^ 



WE SPEAK THE SAME GOOD TONGUE 127 

losophy in which he recommended a chemical formula and other 
methods to prevent conception. I had not found a trace of this in my 
previous research, even in Boston where it had been published. 

Knowlton's reaffirmation of the desirability both from a political 
and social point of view for mankind to be able to limit at will the 
number of offspring without sacrificing the attendant gratification 
of the reproductive instinct, would have been little noticed had it not 
been for the repercussion in England forty years later. 

During the early Victorian uprush of industrialism a man's chil- 
dren had been breadwinners, and family limitation had naturally 
lapsed. But when humanitarian legislation had begun to rescue chil- 
dren from factories, the population specter had shown itself once 
more. 

In 1 86 1 was formed the Malthusian League, designed to influence 
public opinion and overcome the prevailing misconception of Mal- 
thusianism, and in 1876 a Bristol bookseller brought out an English 
edition of Fruits of Philosophy. He was promptly arrested on the 
charge of publishing an obscene book, and sentence was suspended 
on his plea of guilty. 

The brilliant rationalist and freethinker, Charles Bradlaugh, a re- 
doubtable personality, together with Annie Besant, later the renowned 
Theosophist but then a young rebel, started a printing partnership and 
sold the pamphlet. Although not approving it in all its details they 
determined to contest the right to publish it and to prove that pre- 
vention of conception was not obscene. 

Extraordinary interest was aroused in their trial before Lord 
Chief Justice Cockburn and a special jury. The Solicitor General 
himself appeared as chief counsel for the prosecution. Taking a copy 
of Fruits of Philosophy in his hands he opened it solemnly and said, 
"It is really extremely painful to me," then hesitating, "very painful 
to me to have to read this." But he did so. 

Bradlaugh and Besant conducted their own defense. The latter 
with eloquence and astonishing poise held the admiring attention of 
the court for two days. Nevertheless, both were convicted of defam- 
ing the morals of the public, sentenced to six months in jail and a 
thousand-dollar fine, and required to put up guarantees of twenty- 
five hundred dollars for good behavior during the next two years. 



128 MARGARET SANGER 

The case was immediately appealed. Fortunately the upper court 
dismissed it on a technicality, because, specific evidence of obscenity 
was not included; if the words were polluting they had to appear in 
the record. 4 

This decision settled for all time in England that contraception 
was not to be classed among the obscenities. As a result, new life 
was injected into the Malthusian League and its name was changed 
to the Neo-Malthusian Society. In the first issue of its monthly jour- 
nal it set forth a modest claim : "We have the ONLY REMEDY that 
the disease of society can be cured by." Instead of the impractical ad- 
vice of Malthus to marry late, the Neo-Malthusians advised early 
marriage, the use of contraceptive methods, and children born ac- 
cording to the earning capacity of the father ; a man's station in life 
should determine the number of his children. Furthermore, they in- 
tended one by one to "prick the flimsy bubbles of emigration, lessened 
production, and home colonization, which are from time to time put 
forward." The emphasis was still placed on the social and economic 
aspects rather than the personal tragedies of women. 

That was in 1876; now in 1914 the Drysdales, Dr. C. V. and 
his wife, Bessie, were the guiding spirits of the Society. They had a 
long heritage of Malthusianism behind them ; the uncle of the former, 
Dr. George Drysdale, fresh from Edinburgh in 1854, had anony- 
mously published his Elements of Social Science, which had gone 
into fifteen languages. He had even himself studied Chinese to en- 
sure a reasonably accurate translation in that tongue. In the darkest 
days of Victorianism, this young physician had included the New 
Woman in his interpretation of Malthus. Both he and his brother 
Charles, also a physician, had been in love with Alice Vickery, who 
had chosen the latter and borne him a son, the present C.V. 

Alice Vickery was as great in her day as Mary Wollstonecraft in 
hers. After a tremendous struggle, which included getting her de- 
gree in Dublin and her training in Paris, she had proved her right to 
enter the medical profession, and had become the first woman doctor 
in England. 

My keenest desire was to get in touch with the Drysdales. They 
invited me to tea at their offices — offices in the English sense, not 
ours. I squelched through the inevitable rain to Queen Anne's Cham- 



WE SPEAK THE SAME GOOD TONGUE 120, 

bers and was astonished to find nothing on the door except Dr. C. V. 
Drysdale's name. The term Malthusian was not considered proper 
according to the landlord's ideas of propriety. In fact, throughout 
England the word brought up antagonism. People crossed the street 
to avoid it. 

I entered a sitting room, gay with chintz-covered chairs and a. sofa, 
pillows at the back, quite fitted to Queen Anne's own day. A fire was 
burning cheerily, yet even this was not so welcome as the open arms 
and excitement with which I was greeted, not only by the Drysdales 
but also by Dr. Binnie Dunlop, dark, Scotch, thin, and dapper, in- 
tellectually enthusiastic although not emotionally so ; by Olive John- 
ston, the faithful secretary who had worked for many years with 
the Drysdales ; and by F. W. Stella Browne, an ardent Feminist whose 
faintly florid face, hair never quite white, and indefatigable vivacity 
are the same a quarter of a century later. Many women in causes 
are like that ; something in their spirit keeps them forever young. 

Dr. Drysdale was then in his early forties, slender, fair, inclined 
to be bald. In his ebullience he was not at all British, but his pleas- 
ing, warm, and courteous personality was British at its best. Bessie 
Drysdale, about her husband's age, was the practical member, dispens- 
ing charming hospitality. The others were like an army meeting me, 
but she brought up the rear with tea and cakes and comforting 
things. 

It seemed to me I had seen them and known them all before. I was 
immediately certain I had come to the right place. In the United 
States I had been alone, pulling against all whose broad, general 
principles were the same as mine but who disapproved of my actions. 
But these new friends saw eye to eye with me. Instead of heaping 
criticism and fears upon me, they offered all the force of an inter- 
national organization as well as their encyclopedic minds to back 
me up. 

The policy of the Neo-Malthusians had been to educate the edu- 
cators. They believed that once the practice of family limitation had 
been established among the well-to-do and socially prominent, it 
would be taken up by the lower strata. They were not discouraged, 
although after almost forty years success seemed as far away as 
ever; the working classes not only evinced no desire for the benefits 



I30 MARGARET SANGER 

of family limitation, but did not even know such a thing existed. 

Everybody in the room appreciated my rebellion and extended con- 
gratulations on a name having been coined which was so simple and 
easy to understand as birth control. When I told them how I had 
managed the distribution of the Family Limitation pamphlets Dr. 
Drysdale stood up impetuously and said, "Oh, would to God we had 
a Comstock law ! There's nothing can so stir the British people as a 
bad law. Then they will do something to change it !" 

That afternoon was one of the most encouraging and delightful 
of my life. The warmth of my reception strengthened me to face the 
future. It lessened my dreadful homesickness and curbed the ever- 
growing impulse to escape from war-sick London and hurry back to 
the children. During my stay I saw much of the Drysdales and their 
group, and between us all grew up a close kinship which has lasted 
through the stormy years. 

I like to think of London at this time chiefly because of all .my new 
friends and the laughter they brought me. Of late there had been 
little of it in my life, but with every friend I had in England — more 
than with any other people I have ever known — I laughed, and this 
laughter knit and welded the bonds of comradeship. 

One day in the British Museum I was standing by the catalogs, 
which were in the form of books, waiting until a man near me fin- 
ished the volume I wanted to consult. I glanced at him idly, then 
more closely, thinking I identified the profile from pictures I had 
seen. When he had put the book down I ventured tentatively, "Aren't 
you Edward Carpenter?" 

Almost without looking at me he replied, "Yes, and aren't you 
Margaret Sanger?" 

It was a shock for Bertha Watson to hear this name repeated out 
loud in a public place. However, Mr. Carpenter's recognition was 
readily explainable. He had been more or less prepared to see me 
because he had already received my letter and had that morning at 
my rooming house been told I never returned from the British Mu- 
seum until evening. Since we could not talk in this hall of silence, 
we adjourned to the Egyptian Room, and then to lunch. He was hu- 
man, full of wit, fun, and humor — a live person who exuded mag- 
netism. 



WE SPEAK THE SAME GOOD TONGUE I3I 

Edward Carpenter reassured me that what I was doing was not 
merely of the present but belonged even more to the future. From 
this fine spirit I drew confirmation of the purity of my endeavor, 
something essential for me to take back to America if others there 
were to experience the same sense of justification. We beyond the 
Atlantic were still uncertain of our ethics, and even of our morals. 
We needed the sanction of British public opinion and the approval 
of their great philosophers, so that we could be strong in our beliefs. 

During the first weeks in England I did not feel vehemently about 
the War, especially as signs were displayed everywhere, "Business 
as usual." I supposed it would be a little flurry, soon over. War talk, 
of course, was universal. The German espionage system was much 
discussed. I wondered whether it were not the general characteristic 
of the German always to observe and be accurate in detail which 
made his information valuable. He did the same thing in the United 
States, where nobody thought of calling him a spy. Everywhere 
women were knitting socks and mitts, but I was more impressed by 
the fact they were smoking in hotel lobbies — a new indication of 
emancipation to me — and even rolling their own cigarettes. If a 
woman came in for tea, without a word being said, a bell hop pro- 
duced her own box of tobacco. When she left, it was returned to its 
proper place. 

As the months went on, however, to be an American became almost 
as unlucky as to be a German. Whoever wished to remain safely in 
England must agree with England, give over every vestige of in- 
dependent thinking or free expression. Wherever I went I heard 
mention of "Traitorous America." At one dining-car table a gray- 
haired Englishman, unaware of my nationality, asserted, "Ameri- 
cans will do anything for money." 

"Yes," agreed his companion. "They do not care whom their 
bullets kill. They get paid for them." He was a young Dutchman, 
apparently just returned from the East Indies, and the conversation 
between the two developed briskly. Americans were a "mixed breed 
without souls ; they had none of the qualities which make a nation 
great — no traditions, history, art, music, absolutely nothing but 
their money; they had to come to Europe for everything — to Eng- 
land for laws, customs, and morals, to France for fashions and arts ; 



I32 MARGARET SANGER 

they were human leeches fastened on Europe without incentive, orig- 
inality, or creative ability ; they — " 

I interrupted, "What do you want America to do? Why should 
she get into this? Does she owe loyalty to England or France or 
Russia?" 

"Oh, no, but for Belgium. America signed the Hague Treaty with 
the rest of us, and she has not stood by it." 

To this I advanced the argument, "We Americans are not like 
Europeans. We are a heterogeneous mixture of all the fighting forces 
and nations of the world. We include the Irish who hate England, 
and Jews who hardly can be said to love Russia. A large part of our 
population — industrious, civil, reliable, and prosperous — are Ger- 
mans, with whom our Scandinavians are sympathetic. Who then have 
we to ally against Germany ? And why ? — a very small far-back men- 
tion of gratitude to France for her help in our Revolution against 
British rule — and the Statue of Liberty." 

On the whole I came more nearly being a nationalist when I left 
England than when I went there. I had to do such battle to explain 
the United States that, almost involuntarily, I felt myself becoming 
less of an internationalist. It was a strange feeling, as though some- 
body you knew and loved were being criticized, and you took up the 
cudgels in defense. 



Chapter Eleven 



HAVELOCK ELLIS 



"He zvho ascends to mountain-tops shall find 
Their loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow; 
Round him, are icy rocks, and loudly blow 
Contending tempests on his naked head." 

LORD BYRON 



i , >\> >\ \ fff . tff, ttf . i 

AS Christmas approached, my loneliness for the children increased. 
XJLThis was their particular time. I had messages from and about 
them, but these could not give the small, intimate details ; the Atlantic 
was a broad span, seeming more vast to letter writers. I missed their 
voices, their caresses, even their little quarrels. I almost wondered 
whether solitary confinement in prison were not preferable to my 
present isolation. 

In the midst of this stark yearning to be with them and share their 
tree I received a cordial note from Havelock Ellis asking me to come 
to tea. With kindly foresight he had given me explicit directions how 
to reach Fourteen Dover Mansions in Brixton across the Thames. I 
boarded a crowded bus at Oxford Circus. Though it was a miserable 
day near the dark end of 1914, the spirit of Christmas was in the air 
and everyone was laden with beribboned bundles and bright pack- 
ages. 

Looking askance at the police station which occupied the lower 
floor I climbed up the stairs, and, with the shyness of an adolescent, 
full of fears and uncertainties, lifted the huge brass knocker. The 
figure of Ellis himself appeared in the door. He seemed a giant in 
stature, a lovely, simple man in loose-fitting clothes, with powerful 
head and wonderful smile. He was fifty-five then, but that head will 
never change — the shock of white hair, the venerable beard, shaggy 

133 



134 MARGARET SANGER 

though well-kept, the wide, expressive mouth and deep-set eyes, sad 
even in spite of the humorous twinkle always latent. 

I was conscious immediately that I was in the presence of a great 
man, yet I was startled at first by his voice as he welcomed me in. 
It was typically English, high and thin. I once talked to a prisoner 
at Sing Sing who had been in the death house for three years and 
could speak only in whispers thereafter. Ellis had been a hermit for 
twenty-five. He had lived in the Bush in Australia, and later se- 
cluded himself in his study. Nevertheless, the importance of what 
he had to say much more than made up for the instrument which 
conveyed it. 

He led me to the living room through which the cheerless twilight 
of a winter afternoon in London barely penetrated, and seated me 
before a little gas fire. Some rooms impress you as ghastly cold even 
when hot. This one, though lacking central heating, had the warmth 
of many books. He lit two candles on the mantel, which flickered 
softly over his features, giving him the aspect of a seer. 

We sat down and quiet fell. I tried a few aimless remarks but I 
stuttered with embarrassment. Ellis was still. Small talk was not 
possible with him; you had to utter only the deepest truths within 
you. No other human being could be so silent and remain so poised 
and calm in silence. 

While Ellis was preparing tea in the kitchen he left me to look over 
his library and the most recent news from America. He had laid out 
and marked certain pertinent items which he thought might not have 
come to my attention. This, I later found, was one of his most en- 
dearing characteristics. He always entered into the life of the other 
person in little details, never forgetting even the kind of bread or 
olives, fruits or wines, you preferred. His detachment was not in- 
compatible with sympathy. 

Soon appeared a large tray, laden with tea, cakes, and bread and 
butter, and we sat down before the humming flame and talked and 
talked ; and as we talked we wove into our lives an intangible web of 
mutual interests. I began to realize then that the men who are truly 
great are the easiest to meet and understand. After those first few 
moments I was at peace, and content as I had never been before. 
Entirely unaware of the reverence he aroused, Ellis pasted no labels 



HAVELOCK ELLIS 1 35 

on himself, had no poses, made no effort to impress. He was simply, 
quite un-self consciously, what he was. 

When he asked me to describe the details of how I had locked 
horns with the law, I spoke glowingly of the heartening approval 
which the Drysdales had just given me. He did not show the same 
enthusiasm ; in fact he was rather concerned, and not so ready with 
praise for my lack of respect for the established order, believing so 
strongly in my case that he wanted me to avoid mistakes. I think his 
influence was always more or less subduing and moderating; he 
tried to get me, too, to take the middle road. Though he occasion- 
ally alluded to some of the more amusing phases of the trial of his 
own work, he had pushed it into the back of his mind. 

This monumental study intended for doctors and psychologists 
had been projected when Ellis was a medical student of nineteen. But 
his short practice of medicine, his editing of the Mermaid Series of 
Old British Dramatists, and the preparation of several sociological 
treatises, had intervened before, in 1898, Sexual Inversion, the first 
volume, had appeared. George Bedborough, printer, had been ar- 
rested for selling a copy, and charged with "publishing an obscene 
libel with the intention of corrupting the laws of Her Majesty's 
subjects." Ellis, the scholar, preferred to ignore controversy; the 
martyr's crown would not have coincided favorably with calm and 
dispassionate research. Judging it merely stupid of the British Gov- 
ernment to have pushed the case to trial, he suspended the sale of 
the volume immediately, so disappointed that his own countrymen 
did not understand his motives that he stated then and there he 
would not have his other volumes published in England, and he 
never has. 

He, beyond any other person, has been able to clarify the ques- 
tion of sex, and free it from the smudginess connected with it from 
the beginning of Christianity, raise it from the dark cellar, set it on 
a higher plane. That has been his great contribution. Like an alche- 
mist, he transmuted the psychic disturbance which had followed my 
reading of his books into a spiritual essence. 

We had many things to discuss, but suddenly it dawned upon me 
that I must have outstayed my time. Seven o'clock struck before I 
realized how late it was. It had seemed so short to me. 



136 MARGARET SANGER 

I was not excited as I went back through the heavy fog to my 
own dull little room. My emotion was too deep for that. I felt as 
though I had been exalted into a hitherto undreamed-of world. 

Some of my new friends, Guy Aldred, Henry Sara, and Rose 
Witcop, invited me to tea with them Christmas Eve. Rose was de- 
liberate in her movements, tall and dark, with straight black hair 
falling low over her forehead and caught at the nape of the neck. 
She and Guy were both ardent pacifists. A few days earlier I had 
overheard them reproving their son, aged six, for suggesting that 
Santa Claus bring him some lead soldiers. He had seen uniforms in 
every street and toy replicas in every shop window; all little boys 
were having them. I had not been able to send many presents to my 
children, and before leaving the house slipped into his room. He was 
sound asleep and his clothes were stretched out neatly at the foot of 
his bed. Outraging my own principles I tucked a box of soldiers un- 
der the blanket so that he might see this martial array the first thing 
in the morning. 

Rose and Guy were thoroughly disgusted with me. 

Much that evening combined to stir me. Carol singers paraded 
Torrington Square, group after group lifting plaintive voices in Good 
King Wenceslas and We Three Kings of Orient Are. I was head- 
achy but I went out and strolled about the streets to see Merrie Eng- 
land at Yuletide. I had on so much clothing that I could scarcely 
walk, and still I was icy cold. It was just about a year since I had left 
France with the children, never to be reunited with Bill. 

Since I am slow in my decisions and cannot separate myself from 
past emotions quickly, all breaches must come gradually. A measure 
of frustration is an inevitable accompaniment to endeavor. My mar- 
riage had not been unhappy; I had not let it be. It had not failed 
because of lack of love, romance, wealth, respect, or any of those 
qualities which were supposed to cause marital rifts, but because the 
interests of each had widened beyond those of the other. Develop- 
ment had proceeded so fast that our lives had diverged, due to that 
very growth which we had sought for each other. I could not live 
with a human being conscious that my necessities were thwarting or 
dwarfing his progress. 

It had been a crowded year, encompassing the heights and depths 



HAVELOCK ELLIS 137 

of feeling. Christmas Eve was too much for me. I went back again 
and sat, wondering whether the children were well and contented. The 
next morning came a cable from them, flowers from Bill, and a nice 
note from Havelock Ellis. 

Thereafter Havelock aided me immensely in my studies by guid- 
ing my reading. Tuesdays and Fridays were his days at the British 
Museum, and he often left little messages at my seat, listing helpful 
articles or offering suggestions as to books which might assist me in 
the particular aspect I was then engaged upon. 

If when traveling about with him on the tram, going to a concert, 
shopping for coffee and cigarettes outside the Museum, a thought 
came to him, he would pull out a bit of paper and jot down notes. 
That was how he compiled his material for books, gathering it piece- 
meal and storing it away in envelopes. Anything on the dance went 
into the dance envelope, music into music, and so on. As soon as any 
one became full enough to attract his attention, he took it out and 
started to make something of it. 

Sometimes we dined together at a Soho restaurant; occasionally 
I had tea at his flat. In his combined kitchen and dining room, 
warmed by a coal stove, he did his work, and there also he cooked 
meals for which he marketed himself. He was proud of being able 
to lay a fire with fewer sticks and less paper than an expert char- 
woman, and once said he would rather win praise for the creation of 
a salad than of an essay. 

One of the four rooms was set aside for the use of his wife, 
Edith. She preferred the country and lived on her farm in Cornwall, 
whereas Havelock loved to be in the city; though he was not a part 
of it, he liked to hear it going on about him. Whenever she came to 
town she found all her books and possessions inviolate; whenever 
he went to Cornwall he found everything ready for him. Either of 
them could, on impulse, board a train without baggage and in a few 
hours be at home. 

Edith was short and stocky, high-colored, curly-haired, with mys- 
tical blue eyes but accompanying them a strain of practicality. She 
could run the farm, look after the livestock, and dispose of her 
products. Her vitality was so great that it sought other outlets in 
writing fiction. 



I38 MARGARET SANGER 

Bernard Shaw was once trying to find his way to the Ellis farm 
and stopped at a cottage to inquire whether he was on the right road. 
The goodwife could not tell him. 

"But I know Mr. and Mrs. Ellis live near here." 

She kept protesting nobody of that name was in the neighborhood 
until Shaw pointed to a house which appeared as though it might be 
the one. "Who lives there?" 

"Two strangers." 

"What do they do?" 

"Oh, the man he writes out of other folks' books, but she writes 
out of her head." 

The person who saw most of Havelock was Olive Schreiner, a 
long-standing friend of his and of Edith. I was delighted at the 
chance of meeting the author of Woman and Labor and of another 
favorite, The Story of an African Farm. She had just come to Eng- 
land for the first time in twenty-five years and been caught in the 
War. 

Knowing Havelock to be a philosopher, I had expected him to be 
an elderly man, but, despite his white hair, had found him young, 
physically and mentally. Olive Schreiner's writings were so alive 
that I had visualized a young woman. Instead, although her hair was 
black, her square and stout Dutch body was old and spread. She had, 
perhaps, been partly aged by the frightful asthma from which she 
had suffered for so many years. The effect was enhanced by the dark 
surroundings of the shabby hotel in which I first saw her. 

Certainly another contributing factor was her despondence over 
the War. Although her mother was English, her father Dutch, and 
she a British subject, her Germanic name was causing her the most 
harrowing complications. Fellow hotel guests of her own sex, when 
they spied her name on the register or heard her paged, insisted to 
the manager that either she should be removed or they were going 
to seek quarters elsewhere. She was literally being hounded from 
place to place. 

Possibly Olive felt the tragedy of the War more than any other 
person I met in London at this time. She had never believed that "the 
boys would be out of the trenches by Christmas," or that business as 



HAVELOCK ELLIS 1 39 

usual could continue much longer. Already she had seen the horrors 
of armed conflict in South Africa; it seemed to begin lightly, but 
it did not end that way. She feared the whole world might be trapped 
in this one, that internationalism and the peace movement were prac- 
tically finished, and that a whole new generation had to be born before 
we could recover what we had lost. She appeared to me then unduly 
disheartened ; it was only later when her words came true that I com- 
prehended how accurate were her prophecies. 

Better than any living being Olive understood Havelock. I real- 
ized this during a conversation between herself and Edith. The lat- 
ter had been in the United States lecturing on three writers : her hus- 
band, James Hinton, whom he admired tremendously, and Edward 
Carpenter. Her reception had convinced her the name of Ellis had 
gone beyond the borders of England, and she wanted him to return 
with her the following year to reap some of the reward of the respect 
thousands of Americans had for him. 

Havelock was terror-stricken, first at the idea of coming to a new 
country, and second at the mere mention of speaking in public. He 
could imagine no tortures worse than these. But in order to please 
Edith, whom he loved dearly, and also because her persistency and 
determination were so great that he found it hard to oppose her, he 
agreed to leave it to the three of us. 

Edith and I had called on Olive to talk it over. She, as usual, had 
just recently moved. This time she was more cheerful, and after tea 
we took up the momentous question of the destiny of another indi- 
vidual. Edith, with her customary fire and fervor, started in to per- 
suade Olive, Havelock's lifelong friend, and me, his new friend, 
that going to America would be a crowning glory for him. She en- 
treated our aid in making him decide to do so. 

Olive characteristically listened with rapt attention until Edith had 
finished. Then she turned to me. "What do you think Havelock 
should do?" 

I, knowing how much Americans expected of a speaker in the 
way of voice, personality, and gift of oratory, and also how easily 
they could be disappointed unless gestures and external appearance 
fulfilled their anticipations, concluded he would not find this crown 



140 MARGARET SANGER 

of glory or this universal acclaim, and that he would probably return 
disillusioned after the first fanfare of publicity. I said, without giv- 
ing my reasons, "I don't think he should go." 

"Have either of you asked Havelock what he wants to do?" Olive 
questioned. 

"I have," said Edith, "and he doesn't want to." 

"Then that settles the matter entirely," replied Olive. "Nobody 
has the authority to make another do what he doesn't want to, no 
matter how good you or I or any of us think it might be for him. 
I myself will never take a step that my instinct or intuition tells me 
not to. I am guided wholly by that instinct, and if I should awaken 
tomorrow morning and my inner voice told me to go to the top of 
the Himalayas, I would pack up and go." 

This brief speech determined the question for Havelock, his right 
to stay snugly in London, and to give up all the adventure Edith had 
planned for him. 

Olive, in her commonly dark mood, was encouraged more by the 
work being done for women in birth control than by anything else. 
She herself, who had had but one child, which had died, realized its 
significance. The last time I saw her she put both arms around me 
and said, "We may never meet again,- but your endeavor is the bright 
star shining through the black clouds of war." 

She was not able to go back to South Africa until the War was 
over. One morning, not long afterwards, she was found dead in her 
bed. According to her instructions, her little child and beloved dog 
were removed from their old resting places and Kaffirs carried the 
three of them to the peak of a mountain outside Queenstown, where 
they have since reposed on their high eminence. 

Ellis has been called the greatest living English gentleman. But 
England alone cannot claim him ; he belongs to all mankind. I define 
him as one who radiates truth, energy, and beauty. I see him in a 
realm above and beyond the shouting and the tumult. Captains and 
kings come and go. Lilliputian warriors strut their hour, and bound- 
ary lines between nations are made and unmade. Although he takes no 
active share in this external trafficking, he does not dwell apart in an 
ivory tower of his own construction. 

This Olympian seems to be aloof from the pain of the world, yet 



HAVELOCK ELLIS 141 

he has penetrated profoundly into the persistent problems of the 
race. Nothing human is alien to his sympathy. His knowledge is 
broad and deep; his wisdom even deeper. He makes no strident, 
blatant effort to cry aloud his message, but gradually and in ever- 
increasing numbers, men and women pause to listen to his serene 
voice. 

Here is a phenomenon more amazing than the achievements of 
radio-activity. Despite all the obstacles and obstructions that have 
hindered his expression, his truth has filtered through to minds ready 
to receive it. His philosophy, if it can be reduced to an essence, is 
that of life more abundant — attained through a more complete un- 
derstanding of ourselves and an unruffled charity to all. 

To Havelock Ellis we owe our concept of that Kingdom of God 
within us, that inner world which hides all our inherent potentiali- 
ties for joy as well as suffering. Thanks to him we realize that hap- 
piness must be the fruit of an attitude towards life, that it is in no 
way dependent upon the rewards or the gifts of fortune. Like St. 
Francis of Assisi, he teaches the beauty of nature, of his brother the 
sun and his sister the moon, of birds and fish and animals, and all 
the pageantry of the passing seasons. 

I have never felt about any .other person as I do about Havelock 
Ellis. To know him has been a bounteous privilege; to claim him 
friend my greatest honor. 



Chapter Twelve 



STORK OVER HOLLAND 



VVX »« AV\ ,<,\V \V\ .VOL .xx* ,xv> .>v> .xvv .vsv .vvv . 
*iJ9 W? 'iii 'Hi "iii 'id? 'id? '??? 'id? ??? *??? id? , 

DAY after day the attendants at the British Museum piled books 
and pamphlets on the table before my seat. As I pored over 
the vital statistics of Europe it seemed to me that chiefly in the 
Netherlands was there a force operating towards constructive race 
building. The Dutch had long since adopted a common-sense attitude 
on the subject, looking upon having a baby as an economic luxury 
— something like a piano or an automobile that had to be taken care 
of afterwards. 

The Drysdales often mentioned the great work done by, Dr. Aletta 
Jacobs of Amsterdam and Dr. Johannes Rutgers of the Hague. The 
story of Dr. Jacobs' conquest of nearly insuperable obstacles to a 
medical career was particularly appealing. Born in 1854 in the Prov- 
ince of Groningen, she was the eighth child of a physician who, on 
eight hundred dollars a year, had to support his wife and eleven chil- 
dren. Even before adolescence she had asked defiantly, "What's the 
use of brains if you're born a girl?" She was determined to become 
a doctor like her father, though no woman had ever been admitted 
to Groningen University. Her spirit was so indomitable that when 
at seventeen she had passed the examinations and demanded entrance, 
she had been permitted to listen for a year, and then allowed to regis- 
ter as a permanent student. 

In 1878 Dr. Jacobs had finished her studies in medicine at Am- 
sterdam University and gone to London, where she had attended the 
Besant and Bradlaugh trial, met the Fabians, met the Malthusians, 

142 



STORK OVER HOLLAND 1 43 

become an ardent suffragist. This first woman physician in the Neth- 
erlands had returned to Amsterdam and there had braved the disap- 
proval of her father's friends by practicing her profession and by 
opening a free clinic for poor women and children, where she gave 
contraceptive advice and information, the first time this had ever 
been done in the world. . 

/Within a few years and within a radius of five miles the proportion \ 
of stillbirths and abortions as well as venereal disease had started to J 
decline, children were filling the schools, people were leaving their 
canal boats to go into agriculture.. 

The Netherlands being such a small country, where one person's 
business was everybody's business, such changes could not escape 
notice. Just about this time Dr. Charles R. Drysdale, then President 
of the English League, had been invited ,to address an International 
Medical Congress held in Amsterdam. The results of Dr. Jacobs' 
clinic were so apparent that immediately thereafter the Dutch Neo- 
Malthusian League had been formed and thirty- four physicians had 
joined it. "^Vhen other centers were established, purely for consulta- 
tion, the word clinic was applied to them also/In 1883 Dr. Mensinga, 
a gynecologist of Flensburg, Germany, had published a description 
of a contraceptive device called a diaphragm pessary, which he and 
Dr. Jacobs had perfected. yDr. and Madame Hoitsema Rutgers had 
taken charge of the League in 1899 with such success that the work 
had spread through that well-ordered kingdom. In recognition of its 
extensive and valuable accomplishment, Queen Wilhelmina had pre- 
sented it with a medal of honor and a charter, and counted it one of 
the great public utilities. 

• In my statistical investigations I paid special attention to the birth 
and mortality rates of the Netherlands to see how they had been 
affected over this period of thirty-five years. They showed the lowest 
maternal mortality, whereas the United States was at the top of the 
list; three times more mothers' lives were being saved in the little 
dike country than in my native land. furthermore, the infant death 
rate of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and the Hague, the three cities in 
which the League was most active, were the lowest of all those in 
the world. 

During the same period the death rate had been cut in half, but, 



144 MARGARET SANGER 

surprisingly, I found that the birth rate had been reduced only a 
third. In other words, the death rate had fallen faster than the birth 
rate, which meant that the population of the Netherlands was in- 
creasing more rapidly than that of any other country in Europe. 

I had much difficulty in reconciling these figures with my precon- 
ceived idea that birth control would automatically bring about a de- 
crease in population. Since it was increasing, then perhaps birth con- 
trol was not, after all, the answer to the economic international prob- 
lem. If this were true all my calculations were going to be upset. 

Impatient to go to the Netherlands and dig out the real facts, not 
only from Dutch records but from personal observation, I decided 
quietly — most of my decisions in those days were quiet ones — to 
cross the Channel. This implied possible unwelcome encounters with 
inquisitive officials, floating bombs, submarines, and every type of 
inconvenience and delay, but my eagerness made me discount the 
hindrances. 

I applied. to the Dutch Consul for a visa to Bertha Watson's pass- 
port. 

"Eighty cents, please," and no questions asked. 

So that I should not have to return to London before going on to 
Paris I presented myself at the French Consulate also. I waited two 
hours. "Two dollars, please," and still no queries. 

I attached myself to the end of the long line waiting at Victoria 
Station to have passports inspected, and was soon safely on. the train 
for Folkestone. We were late when we reached the Channel. Again 
we lined up for inspection. Many Belgian women with four or five 
children were going back to their people; the sleepy little ones and 
the tired women settled on the platform to rest until some had 
gone through. Two detectives glanced casually at my passport, and 
then allowed me to enter the official chamber. Inspections had been 
growing steadily more strict ; this was the ultimate test. There sat in 
a row three officers in mufti, well-fed and brusque with authority. 
I handed my passport to the first, who looked me up and down as 
though I were a treacherous enemy, then pushed it over to the next. 
This man too viewed me with suspicion and mistrust, and pulled out 
a notebook, scanning the names to see whether mine were on the 
proscribed list. The last of the three, who was to make the final de- 



STORK OVER HOLLAND 145 

cision — crisp, trim, and hard as nails in voice and manner — de- 
manded, "What are you going to the Continent for, Madam? An- 
other joy ride? You Americans must think that's all this War 
amounts to. Can you produce any good reason for letting you 
through?" 

Fortunately I was prepared for such a contingency. I took out of 
my purse a letter from Bernarr MacFadden asking me to answer cer- 
tain questions in the form of articles for Physical Culture such as the 
relation between the unfit and population growth. I offered this docu- 
ment while those in line behind me waited restively. He read it me- 
ticulously, taking longer than necessary as it seemed to me in my 
nervousness. At last he folded it neatly and said, "A good work, this. 
Too bad someone hasn't done it before." 

Then he put* his last official stamp on my various papers and I 
passed through for the gangplank. 

No complications presented themselves at the Hague, and early 
on a January morning in 191 5 I registered at an inexpensive hotel. 
It was comforting, to hear a radiator sizzling once more. I joined 
the other guests who were cheerfully breakfasting together en famille 
at a single table, and, since I spoke neither Dutch nor German, silently 
munched my black bread and cheese, downed the excellent coffee, and 
watched interestedly. Though stolid in appearance like all the Dutch, 
they were friendly. 

I did not try to telephone Dr. Rutgers. Instead, though it was not 
yet nine o'clock, I hailed a taxi and held out to the driver a slip of 
paper on which I had written the street and number. In response to 
my ring at the door to which I was delivered, a tiny square window 
in the upper part opened mysteriously and a face — wizened, aged, 
and inquisitive — was framed in the aperture. It remained while I ex- 
plained my mission. Apparently trust was inspired because, my story 
finished, the door swung wide and the face, materialized into Dr. 
Rutgers, ushered me into the library, where I waited until he came 
back in his street clothing. Then we went out to a second breakfast 
in a nearby cafe. 

The doctor turned out to be a kindly little man, whose wife was 
now an invalid. It was hard for him to talk English. Most of the 
Dutch had four languages, but only those who had lived in England 



I46 MARGARET SANGER 

spoke English well. The difficulties, however, lessened as we nibbled 
brioches and sipped coffee after coffee until noon. Warming to my 
narrative of the battle in the United States, he shook his head when 
he thought of what I might have to face in the future, and expressed 
more concern over my predicament and more heartfelt sympathy 
with my having had to leave the children behind than anybody I had 
yet met. He was the first person to whom I had been able to over- 
flow about my personal sadness. 

On his part Dr. Rutgers described his hardships in keeping the 
clinics open and, through the League, preventing adverse legisla- 
tion. Neo-Malthusianism had never been popular anywhere, no mat- 
ter what the proof in the lessening of human misery and suffering. 
Dr. Rutgers had borne alone the brunt of all the criticism directed 
at his society. 

[ The Rutgers method for establishing new clinics had resulted in 
a sound system for dealing with the birth rate. The men and women 
who acted as his councilors understood that a rising birth rate, no 
matter where in the country, would soon be followed by a high in- 
fant mortality rate. Accordingly, they reported this quickly to the 
society, which sent a midwife or practical nurse, trained in the tech- 
nique standardized by Dr. Rutgers, into the congested sector to set 
up a demonstration clinic. She usually took an apartment with two 
extra rooms, one for waiting, the other a modestly equipped office 
like that of any country midwife. 

Her duty was to go into the home where a child had died, inquire 
into the cause, and give friendly advice regarding the mother's own 
health. She also encouraged her not to have another baby until the 
condition of ignorance, poverty, or disease, whichever it might be, 
had either been bettered or eliminated. Whenever four had been born 
into such a family this advice was made more emphatic. 

As soon as Dr. Rutgers had explained his policy to me I had that 
most important answer to the puzzling and bothersome problem of 
the increasing population in the Netherlands brought about by birth 
control. It was proper spacing. The numbers in a family or the num- 
bers in a nation might be increased just as long as the arrival of chil- 
dren was not too rapid to permit those already born to be assured of 
livelihood and to become assimilated in the community. 



STORK OVER HOLLAND 1 47 

Dr. Rutgers suggested I come to his clinic the next day and learn 
his technique. He was at the moment training two midwives prepar- 
atory to starting a new center in the outskirts of the Hague. Under 
his tutelage I began to realize the necessity for individual instruc- 
tion to patients if the method of contraception prescribed was to ful- 
fill its function. I wondered at the ease with which this could be 
done. Very soon even I myself, unable to talk to these women in 
their own tongue, instructed seventy-five. 

I used to bombard the little man with questions concerning each 
case. I took issue with him over his autocratic system of dictating 
without explanation. Merely saying, "This is what you do. Do this 
always," had to my mind no educational value. 

"Don't you think it would be a good idea to tell your patients what 
you're aiming at and why?" I asked. 

"No, can't take time. They must do what they're told." 

His was the doctor's point of view with which I was familiar, but 
with which I could not agree. 

It also seemed to me a mistake to regard the women merely as 
units in a sociological scheme for bettering the human race. On the 
file cards were inscribed only names and addresses ; no case histories. 
I wanted to know so much more about them. How many children had 
they already had? How many had they lost? What were their hus- 
bands' wages ? What was the spacing in each family, and what were 
the effects? How successful had been the method of contraception? 

If this information had then been recorded, the birth control move- 
ment could later have cited chapter and verse in its own support. 

After my morning's work with Dr. Rutgers I usually repaired to 
the Central Bureau of Statistics') with my three-in-one translator, in- 
terpreter, and guide. My findings were that in all cities and districts 
where clinics had been established the figures showed improvement — 
labor conditions were better and children were going to schools, 
which had raised their educational standards! Professional prostitutes 
were few, and even these were German, French, Belgian, or English, 
because Dutch women were encouraged to marry early. It made a dif- 
ference. From the eugenic standpoint there had been a rapid increase 
in the stature of the Dutch conscript as shown by army records. The 
data proved conclusively that a controlled birth rate was as beneficial 



I48 MARGARET SANGER 

as I had imagined it might be, growing out of the first clinic initiated 
by the enterprise of Dr. Aletta Jacobs. 

I was, of course, looking forward to meeting Dr. Jacobs, and sent 
her a note asking for the privilege of an interview. A reply came, 
curt and blunt; she would not see me. She was not concerned with 
my studies or with me, because it was a doctor's subject and one in 
which laymen should not interfere. Already I had come to the same 
conclusion in principle, but was dismayed at this first rebuff I had 
encountered. I was also hurt as much as I could be hurt during that 
period when I seemed to be one mass of aches, physically and men- 
tally. Not until much later did I learn that to be a nurse was no 
recommendation in Europe, where she was more like an upper serv- 
ant, a household drudge who took care of the sick instead of the 
kitchen. 

For two months I wandered about the Netherlands, visiting clinics 
and independent nurses in the Hague, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam. 
In spite of the League propaganda against commercialization I found 
many shops in which a woman, if she so desired, could purchase con- 
traceptive supplies as casually as you might buy a toothbrush. Un- 
fortunately in some of them she could be examined and fitted by 
saleswomen who had but little training in technique and scant knowl- 
edge of anatomy. 'Although the Dutch League had several thousand 
members — each one active, writing to papers, talking to friends, at- 
tending meetings — and although fifty-four clinics were in opera- 
tion, many well-informed people did not know anything about them. 
More surprising still, the medical profession as a whole appeared to 
be utterly ignorant of the directed birth control work that was going 
on. \It did not, therefore, seem extraordinary that no inkling of all 
this — either clinics or contraceptive methods — had ever reached 
the United States, and practically no attempt to copy it been made 
in England. 

Even in this neutral country signs of war were everywhere. Along 
the way were soldiers in uniform, armed and keeping guard, and at 
the stations Red Cross wagons were in readiness. Feeling among the 
Dutch was greatly mixed : Queen Wilhelmina's husband was a Ger- 
man ; the army and the aristocracy were for the Triple Alliance ; the 
poorer classes were more influenced by the sufferings of the thou- 



STORK OVER HOLLAND 1 49 

sands and thousands of Belgians who had flocked to Dutch firesides 
for food and shelter. 

Nowhere else was I so impressed with the tragedies of war. Often 
about four o'clock I had kaffee Hatch at the home of some Dutch 
lady who sat, very proper, while the maid served coffee, the best in 
Europe, from the big, white, porcelain pot. I suspected most of the 
morning had been spent in supervising preparations for the de- 
licious food. 

At one of these afternoons I was introduced to five German dele- 
gates who had come to attend the Women's Peace Conference. They 
found it difficult to forgive the stories of German atrocities which 
England had allowed to circulate. I ventured to inquire how they 
could disprove them, especially in view of the report of the Bryce 
Commission. "Was not war cruel and savage, and might not these 
things have happened ?" 

"Yes, yes," one said, "but hundreds of our German boys are brought 
back to us, dead and alive, whose noses and ears have been cut off, 
put in packages, and taken to headquarters for reward. However, 
we would not dream of accusing the French or the English soldiers 
of such barbarisms. We know that because their code forbids them 
to do these things themselves they have called in the Moors and the 
Gurkhas and the savages from Africa." 

Unable to comprehend how those towards whom they felt such 
friendliness could return this sentiment with hatred, the women said 
to me in bewilderment, "Tell us really why people who do not know 
us hate us as they do." The dignity of their sorrow, the heavy bur- 
den of grief under which they labored, the very calmness and fair- 
ness with which they bore it, had a quieting effect. 

The Netherlands was the place to regain a certain sense of bal- 
ance, especially if you had passed through England, where feeling 
was so embittered. I overheard in Amsterdam a most illuminating 
conversation between two Englishmen and a German. After going 
over the pros and cons, they shook hands all around, agreeing that 
six months after the War was settled German and English trade 
would be hand in glove, trials and grievances forgotten. 

To go directly to France from the Netherlands was next to im- 
possible ; nor did I find it easy to travel roundabout by way of Eng- 



I50 MARGARET SANGER 

land, owing to the recently instituted German submarine blockade. 
Then at last I heard that a freighter was to be sent to London to test 
it. Day after day I went to the docks for news, and employed the in- 
terval with pleasant social contacts. 

Rather than have a cocktail before lunch or dinner the Dutch as- 
sembled at their favorite restaurants for aperitifs. The glass, with 
winged rim spreading out about half an inch from the top, was filled 
to overflowing with Bols. You were not supposed to touch it at first ; 
instead you leaned over and sort of scooped a little with your mouth 
before picking it up and enjoying it. The French aperitifs were pleas- 
ant and mild, but Holland gin was so strong and raw that I marveled 
at the way they could take it with a smile. I was definitely unequal 
to the art. 

One evening I was invited to play billiards with a Dutchman, an 
Englishman, and a German. I accepted as naturally as for a game of 
whist. Afterwards the Dutchman said that, though no respectable 
Dutch wife could have played billiards in that room without later 
being approached or insulted, an American woman could do any- 
thing and still not lose caste. She minded her own affairs, paid her 
own bills, and even if she were seen on the streets late at night with- 
out an escort everyone knew she must be on legitimate business. 

Then the Englishman spoke to the same effect. He said you found 
the American woman in all sorts of out-of-the-way and often ques- 
tionable places, but you needed only to look into her candid face to 
find an answer to what she was doing there. European women owed 
her a great deal for her pioneering on the Continent. In England it 
was a common sight to see the most estimable women smoking ciga- 
rettes in all fashionable restaurants and hotels just as in America. " 

"Just as in America !" I gasped, remembering my astonishment at 
having seen women smoke publicly in London. "I'm sure there must be 
some mistake. Ladies are not supposed to smoke in America. As an 
example to Europe they're a failure, because they haven't even won 
that liberty for themselves." 

This was a surprise to them all. But the Dutchman rallied to the 
defense, shifting the subject. "Nevertheless, she is the best-dressed 
woman in the world." 



STORK OVER HOLLAND 151 

"What about the Parisian?" I exclaimed. 

"I except none. I have been over half the globe. I have paid par- 
ticular attention to foreigners, their customs, their education, their 
tastes, and I have been convinced that today the Parisian woman has 
had to yield to the American in respect to clothes and fashion. Paris 
designs are intended for the United States, not for France or Eng- 
land. The Frenchwoman may be trim and neat and jaunty, but it 
takes a woman of wealth in France to be in the fashion, while in New 
York, every shopgirl wears cheap editions of the latest styles." 

The German was deep in thought during these speeches, resting his 
chin in his hand. Aroused by the striking of the clock he suddenly 
interpolated, "Why, you can always tell an American couple in Eu- 
rope. The woman is too bossy, she leads the way, she does all the 
talking and ordering, while the man trails on behind her and silently 
pays the bills." 

"Well, you must have seen him when he was on his good be- 
havior," I suggested, "for at home he is not so silent about paying 
the bills." 

Unabashed, the German continued, "My brother who has long 
lived in America says the woman there is the head of the house, that 
she manages all; her word is law. Is this true ?" 

He seemed greatly disturbed, and I was about to reply, but the 
Briton rose to speak. "Of course she is, because she's far superior. 
Why, American men have nothing in common with the women. They 
are coarse, blunt, crude, while the women are finely sensitive, ex- 
quisite, and courteous. The man has nothing to give his wife but 
money; he comes home at night and talks business, introduces into 
his home only friends who will help him out financially, and when 
his wife discusses music, art, or literature, he falls asleep and snores. 
That's why she brings her fortune into Europe for a husband. She 
finds her equal in the Frenchman, the Italian, the Spaniard, but par- 
ticularly in the Englishman. For every Englishman is a gentleman, 
and every American woman is a lady !" 

The German added a final convulsive note to the settlement of the 
woman problem by adding, "Is it true the American husband not 
only washes the dishes but pushes the perambulator ?" 



I52 MARGARET SANGER 

"Why, yes, he often does that." 

"That is terr-r-r-rrible," he answered, the r's rolling out, and his 
hands clasped tight to his temples. 

And at that we all departed for our rest. But a few days later one 
or another of the quartet was demonstrated right. News came that 
my boat was about to leave at once, and I sought out the Captain. 
At the first intimation of my errand, he waved his hands and said, 
"No! No! No women!" 

I kept on talking until I made him admit he was interested in 
America, in diet, and in population. When I found he was a reader 
of Physical Culture I produced my open sesame letter and again it 
was more potent than a passport. I stood reasoning with him on 
the pier, until finally he said, "There's a rule to take no women. But 
you Americans are not like others. I think I can put you in." I was 
allowed to embark. 

During the voyage we were most careful, anchoring at dusk, and 
when it was light keeping sharp watch for floating mines which 
might have broken loose from their moorings. It took us two nights 
and a day to make a crossing that ordinarily occupied only nine or 
ten hours. 

I had plenty of time to sort out my impressions and conclusions 
regarding the birth control movement. They had been revolutionized. 
I could no longer look upon it as a struggle for free speech, because 
I now realized that it involved much more than talks, books, or 
pamphlets. These were not enough. 

Personal instruction had been proved to be the best method, and I 
concluded clinics were the proper places from which to disseminate 
information but also, admirable as they were in the Netherlands, 
they ought not to be placed in the hands of unskilled midwives, so- 
cial workers, or even nurses. These could, of course, instruct after 
a fashion, but only doctors had the requisite knowledge of anatomy 
and physiology and training in gynecology to examine properly and 
describe accurately:. 

I had a new goal, but how difficult and how distant its attainment 
was to be I never dreamed. *l 



Chapter Thirteen 



THE PEASANTS ARE KINGS 



I STAYED but a few days in London and then went on to Paris, 
a gloomy, gloomy city because so many people were garbed in 
black. Jaures had been shot. The capital had already been moved to 
Bordeaux and suspicion and hysteria were in the air. When I went 
within easy driving distance of Paris for lunch or dinner, I could 
see the barbed-wire entanglements and gaps where the trees had been 
taken down for better visibility. 

I renewed what contacts I could. But everybody was too busy now 
with the War to think of such a subject as family limitation, which 
to the French had never been anything to get excited about because 
they were too used to it. Furthermore, the other side of the question 
was now presenting itself. They were beginning to ask, "If we had a 
larger population, could we not have held the Germans back ?" 

Again I saw Victor Dave. He was literally starving to death, sup- 
ported only by friendly gifts of a few francs here or there which 
he always accepted with laughter ; what difference did it make to him 
whether he lived a few days longer? I never saw greater gallantry 
than was manifested by his smile and the shrug of his shoulders as 
he sauntered to work with two pieces of dry bread in his pocket. 

The libraries were shut. Paris was no place for me, but I could see 
something of Spain, and Portet was waiting for me there. After the 
customary passport argument and some surprise at the cost of the 
sleeping-car arrangements I left for the South. It was four o'clock in 

i53 



154 MARGARET SANGER 

the morning as the express pulled into Cerbere, the station on the 
border, where the French viewed all passengers with caution and 
mistrust. 

"Cerbere!" shouted the guard, and, "Passports!" shouted an in- 
spector following on his heels. Mine was not quite right. The 
train moved out leaving me and my baggage desolate on the plat- 
form. In the course of several interviews with various officials I made 
out that my passport lacked a particular signature, and Perpignan 
was the nearest town where it could be secured. 

I paced up and down the tiny station watching for the train back. 
As usual, peasants were asleep in the waiting room, some on the 
floor, others sitting on bags and parcels. We were so close under the 
shadow of the Pyrenees that they almost seemed to be toppling 
over us. 

From the train window I looked out on the beauty of dawn and 
the rising sun, a scene of such magnificence that it repaid me in 
pleasure for all the trouble. To one side was the far stretch of the 
Mediterranean, as magic a blue as I had ever imagined it. To the 
other were the majestic, rugged mountains with snow-capped peaks 
and bases covered with pink, flowering apricots. Little villages of 
white houses and red-tile roofs nestled in the valleys and serpentine 
roads coiled up the hillsides, where thousands of acres of grape vines, 
trim and well cared- for, bespoke the wine country. 

From Perpignan I telegraphed Portet, "Live or die, sink or swim, 
survive or perish, I'll be in Barcelona tomorrow," and boarded the 
train once more with a light heart and my papers, three of them. 

Already in the minute second-class compartment were a large, 
middle-aged woman whose sweet face was framed in a black man- 
tilla, a small gray-haired man, evidently her husband, and a younger 
one of about twenty-five. It would have been crowded enough as it 
was, but they had brought with them packages and bundles that filled 
the space to the roof. However, they squeezed out enough room for 
me to curl myself up and go to sleep. 

I awakened with a start, hearing again the fateful word, "Pass- 
ports!" and found the agent examining those of my fellow passen- 
gers. I opened the bag where I had always carried my credentials, 
but they were not there. The officer stood waiting. "I have my pa- 



THE PEASANTS ARE KINGS 1 55 

pers all signed," I said, "but I cannot find them. Go on to the others 
and when you come back I'll have them." 

Since he could not understand English my speech had little effect ; 
he continued to wait. I began turning things out — letters, books, 
pamphlets of all kinds and descriptions, groping through every bag, 
in and out of every package. My traveling companions gazed on the 
commotion sympathetically and drew their legs aside so I could look 
under the seat. 

At this point another uniform approached and the two consulted 
together. Then one of them blew a whistle and at its loud and shrill 
summons five men came running. The biggest of them threw wide the 
compartment door, to indicate I must get off. They were jabbering 
at me in French and Spanish ; I was talking English. All of us were 
going as fast as we could. First I jumped up and expostulated, then 
sat down and waved my hands saying, "Go away." 

Finally there appeared a young Spanish student who could speak 
English. He conveyed to me that the train was already late on my 
account; I must get off so the other passengers could catch the 
Barcelona Express. 

I would not be bothered any more. "So do I want to catch it," I 
exclaimed. "Why don't they move on? I have a passport and I'll find 
it in a few minutes. I've paid for my ticket to Port Bou and I'm not 
going back. You can stop the train here for a week if you want to — 
I shan't budge !" 

The gendarmes were standing expectantly on the platform below. 
The interpreter shrugged his shoulders, "She'll do as she says. She's 
an American woman and she'll never come down. You might as well 
move on." 

Nevertheless, the big fellow with the long black cape resolutely 
seized one bag after another and handed them out. Underneath the 
last one were disclosed the missing papers. Straightway everybody 
was wreathed in smiles. The bags were restored and the agents 
apologized, thanked me profusely, and departed. 

The passengers shooks hands with me all around. 

Just before we reached Port Bou one of them peered out the win- 
dow, rippled off some words to the others in Catalan. The whole 
compartment was as though electrified. In a few seconds parcels were 



I56 MARGARET SANGER 

being torn apart and boxes ripped open. The Senora removed her 
mantilla and placed a smart new hat on her head, then crowned that 
with another, and another, and another, until finally she was wearing 
four. Yards of beautiful and exquisite lace went inside her bodice. 
She took off her outer skirt and swathed her hips in lengths of cloth. 
The men stuffed their pockets and the lining of their coats. At last 
there were only a few rolls of braid left. The younger one lifted his 
trousers, wound them round and round his legs and tucked the 
ends in his garters. Then through the window went crumpled pa- 
per, boxes, string. Finally, as the train was slowing up they put on 
light-buff, linen dusters. My eyes popped out of my head to see these 
simple people suddenly transformed into stylish stouts returning 
from Paris. 

The two men nonchalantly smoked cigars as though nothing out 
of the way were going on while the customs officials went through 
their bags. Everybody concerned knew they were merchants smug- 
gling goods, but even the authorities regarded it as legitimate for 
them to bring in as much as they could carry on their persons. As 
they left the shed where my belongings were still being scrambled 
over, they glanced commiseratingly at me and glowered indignation 
at the officials that a lady should be so served. 

I had expected to find in Barcelona street-corner Carmens with 
hibiscus blossoms in their hair, wandering guitarists and singers. But 
the only music that passed my window oozed out mechanically from 
two-wheeled, highly-ornamented hurdy-gurdies. Nevertheless, the 
city was full of color. Strange little wagons with canvas covers, 
looking as though they were part of a caravan, rattled over the cob- 
bles. There was something gorgeously elegant about the members 
of the Guardia Civil, grandly mounted on Arabian horses, their 
mustachios fiercely bristling, their uniforms ablaze with scarlet and 
yellow topped off with black patent leather hats. The red Phrygian 
caps of the porters seemed almost too realistic a reminder of revolu- 
tion. The workers still wore their crimson-fringed sashes, their blue 
French blouses, and white rope-soled shoes. The men, as a rule, were 
of slight frame, but conveyed an impression of strength like steel 
rods; the women, invariably black-clad except for the very young, 
were fat and waddling. 



THE PEASANTS ARE KINGS 1 57 

Numberless bells were constantly ringing in numberless churches. 
Everywhere, like crows, were priests in long swinging robes, shovel 
hats, and dirty bare toes sticking through their sandals. On the cor- 
ners of the central streets I saw them occupying the booths of the 
professional correspondents who for ten cents read and answered 
letters for the illiterate. 

Although Barcelona, capital of the separatist province of Cata- 
lonia, was the progressive, industrial center of Spain, it was not 
darkened by a melee of belching chimneys. The hundreds of fac- 
tories were kept out of sight, each one isolated in the fields, leaving 
the city free from traffic, smoke, and the whir of machinery. The 
palms in the squares and parks were lovely, but set side by side with 
the new was the startling antiquity of the old town, congested and 
melancholy. 

Overlooking the sea at the end of the Rambla, decorated along 
its length with flower stalls and trees, loud with birds, stood a tall 
column bearing the statue of Columbus. Around the base were scenes 
portraying various incidents of the voyage to America, each repre- 
sented by small images cast in bronze, all beautiful to the last detail. 
But the effect was greatly spoiled because nearly every one remaining 
had a leg, arm, foot, or even head gone. After looking at this for 
some time and pondering over the wherefore, I concluded that figures 
so strongly made and set had not easily been removed, and decided 
it must have something to do with the Spanish-American War. 
When I asked my Spanish friends whether I had guessed correctly, 
their only explanation was that ruffians had doubtless done it for 
sport. 

However, after I had left the country I received verification of my 
supposition. The monument had been stoned in '98, but no Spaniard 
would ever have admitted this fact to any American; it might hurt 
the feelings of the visitor even to mention the unpleasantness. 

I began to study Spanish with a teacher, but I was not nearly far 
enough advanced to be able to get anywhere in my investigations. 
Unfortunately also, although men thronged the cafes in droves, they 
kept their wives in semi-Oriental seclusion and even mentally im- 
posed their deep-rooted ideas of the isolation of women on foreign- 
ers. I could not violate this custom by going about alone, because I 



I58 MARGARET SANGER 

was a guest. As a result Portet, who was a busy man himself, pro- 
vided me with a succession of male escorts. 

Towards the end of a certain afternoon, tired and footsore, I was 
sitting with one of these accommodating gentlemen at a sidewalk 
table sipping an aperitif — a delicious French vermouth supplemented 
by olives stuffed with anchovies. Bootblacks were making their cus- 
tomary rounds of the patrons, and the men were having their shoes 
cleaned. Since I had been walking about a great deal, mine were ap- 
pearing rather scuffed, and I stretched my feet out. 

My companion looked at me appealingly. "I beg of you, Senora, 
not here." 

"Why not?" 

But the boy had already brought his little shoe rest, begun spit- 
ting on my oxford and rubbing with energy and enthusiasm. Em- 
barrassed, my escort rose and moved away, but, interested in the boy's 
novel methods, I kept my eyes on my shoes and was unaware of any- 
thing out of the ordinary. 

As soon as he had finished I glanced up. There must have been 
twenty-five men gathered in front of the cafe, all looking fixedly and 
intently at this unusual spectacle. When I opened my purse to pay 
the boy, he doffed his cap with the most gracious gesture. "Senora, 
this is my pleasure." 

The crowd outside applauded loudly and I felt my face growing 
hot. Not until they had drifted off did my protector return, wan and 
pale and extremely agitated. "You see what you've done, you see ? It 
will be the joke of Spain! You are the friend of Professor Portet! 
It is a reflection on him and on his family! You cannot do these 
things !" 

I realized then that I had to be more circumspect. 

Portet, who after all was Ferrer's successor, was watched wher- 
ever he went by the secret service, and soon pointed out that I too 
had a shadow — the man who sat constantly at the little, round, 
marble-topped table across from my hotel. He said I should always 
have this individual or one of his mates with me. They were on eight- 
hour duty, and if I were to go in for any night life I would have three 
separate ones over the twenty-four hours. 

These government agents were to give a regular report of whom 



THE PEASANTS ARE KINGS 1 59 

I was with and where I went, and, in a sense, they also looked after me, 
although Portet was never without a revolver in his pocket. In Spain 
a breath of dampness, and pop — open went the umbrellas all over the 
place. Once on the way to a benefit for the Belgians Portet and I 
were waiting for the tram when a spatter of rain came up. His spy 
rushed to hold an umbrella over him while mine ran after my hat 
which the wind had saucily blown off my head. Or, if I were taking 
a train alone, my daytime attendant, having already been in con- 
ference with the hotel proprietor, would appear at the ticket office 
and explain to the clerk where I wanted to go. Had he spoken Eng- 
lish I would have doubtless enjoyed his conversation, but Portet 
warned me it was beneath my dignity even to nod good morning to 
such a creature. 

The frequent friendly attentions of our spies could not draw a 
word of approval from Portet, though on one occasion they performed 
a real service. Stopping en route at the American Express Company to 
get some money, we set out to see a part of the old city new to me. 
Only a few blocks from the banks and modern shops were center 
pumps from which women were carrying the water to their homes 
in tall earthen jugs, in just the same primitive manner as centuries 
ago. The houses in the red-light district were approached by outside 
stairways along which were niches enclosing receptacles for holy 
water, and into these the patrons dipped their fingers religiously, 
crossed themselves, and entered. 

While we were walking through one of the narrow streets, high- 
walled on either side, suddenly and without reason I felt alarmed, 
and at the same moment Portet put his hand in his pocket. I glanced 
behind to find our two familiar guarding shadows gone; I sensed 
danger ahead, but I, too, tried to act as though everything were all 
right, as though there were nothing to worry about. We strolled in 
the same leisurely way to the corner. There in a flash down another 
street we caught a quick glimpse of struggling figures in the distance. 
In a moment they disappeared. 

We proceeded to our destination — a little cafe fronting the Medi- 
terranean. As we sat admiring it, I was startled by the sight of our 
two spies approaching, one of them holding a long, jagged-edged 
knife. I could not understand his excited words, but his pantomime 



l60 MARGARET SANGER 

was so graphically descriptive of a life-and-death struggle that my 
flesh began to creep and shivers ran up and down my backbone. He 
paused, bowed, and held out the knife, obviously offering it to me. 

Portet, looking very incensed, pulled out his revolver, showed it 
to the man, and ordered him off. When both had retired, abashed, 
Portet translated briefly, "He says he has saved your life — that rob- 
bers saw you get money at the American Express this morning, and 
that he knew they were going to attack you. He followed and grabbed 
the knife away from them. I told him this was unnecessary. The 
thieves would have got as good as they gave ! I can take care of you." 

I thought I ought at least to have given the man a reward, but not 
Portet, the revolutionary, who was furious at the presumption. He 
was always angry at them. When he came to lunch with me Palm 
Sunday, the hotel proprietor leaned over the table confidentially and 
said, "The government agent wishes to speak to you." 

Portet shouted, "If he comes near, I'll shoot him! The hound, the 
worm, the dog ! How dare he ?" 

"Can't we find out what he wants?" I suggested. 

The proprietor returned, "Nothing, Sefior, except to ask whether 
you and the Senora are attending the bullfight this afternoon. His 
time is up at four o'clock, but if you are going to the plaza de toros, 
he will be glad to stay on duty another eight hours." 

We went; he came right along and saw the spectacle at govern- 
ment expense. 

The cement-like benches of the large amphitheater were crowded 
to full capacity. The people were gesticulating, chattering volubly as 
though awaiting something unusual or something good eagerly antici- 
pated. Overhead the monotonous, gray sky seemed like a huge tent, 
it was so regular and colorless, but every little while a patch of blue 
appeared. The disposition of the onlookers changed with the same un- 
expectedness from gladness and joy almost instantaneously into im- 
patience or wrath ; at one moment they clapped and praised the mata- 
dor, at the next they insulted and vilified him. 

Most of my Spanish friends hoped I would like a bullfight, al- 
though Portet, who thought it barbaric, told me it would probably 
shock me ; every foreigner who saw one simply shut his eyes in hor- 
ror when some poor old skeleton horse was so gored that its intes- 



THE PEASANTS ARE KINGS l6l 

tines fell out and then were pushed back for its re-entry into the 
arena. If I were going to be conspicuous by showing my feelings, 
the populace might turn upon me, and, jokingly, he suggested fol- 
lowing the example of Alfonso XIII, who had given his English 
bride a pair of opera glasses with perfectly black lenses because she 
was so open and frank at displaying her emotions. She had stood 
and stared blankly at them all the time, and thus got through her 
first bullfight. 

I promised to be careful, and watched with the naked eye. 

The bull came out snorting with passion and vigor, glaring around 
the arena with a great noble sweep of his head. Suddenly he saw a 
color he did not like, something inimical. He lunged towards it, and 
then a medieval-looking figure danced before him with a cape to 
confuse him. He forgot his original enemy and rushed at the red 
thing. Another gyrating figure distracted his attention and angered 
him to wheel towards the new adversary, make another plunge, and 
again be met by a flash of color. 

Over and over and over again this happened. The poor bull's vi- 
tality was finally worn down, not from direct combat, but because of 
the many bewildering forces that were there to destroy him — the 
fluttering capes, the kaleidoscopic shapes, the swift-thrown banderil- 
las, and the gleaming lances of the picadors. Then, when he was 
bleeding and utterly spent, the hero stepped out with a sword to kill 
him. He was dragged out, sombreros whirled into the arena, shrieks 
and shouts arose, the band played, a great victory had been achieved. 

Within no time, even before another bull appeared, vendors came 
along with baskets of hot sandwiches made from the barbecued meat 
of the one just killed. 

Not a single word would Portet let me say until we were entirely 
out of hearing; you could talk freely in Spain against the Church or 
the priests, but this sacred institution must not be criticized. Passing 
through my mind was the thought that a bullfight was symbolic of 
the struggle of the working classes. Strikes, picketing, jails ex- 
hausted their energy until they too charged blindly this way and that, 
always missing the main issue. 

Many of my holidays were spent more happily than this. I never 
tired of the wooded mountains which sheltered Barcelona, most of 



1 62 MARGARET SANGER 

them having some religious significance. Portet and I went up the 
funicular to the top of Tibidabo, the exceeding high place where the 
devil tempted Jesus, showing him in a moment of time the world 
spread out before him. 

Another glorious spring day we twisted up the thirty miles of 
road to Montserrat, the mountain riven in two at the Crucifixion. It 
was the quaintest sight to one coming from a land of subways and 
elevators to watch the donkeys laden with packs on their backs of 
vegetables, eggs, and butter, and to see their owners straggling be- 
side up and down the hills, masters of at least themselves if not of 
their donkeys. The breeze blew more chill as we ascended the final 
slope to the huge monastery at the top. Afterwards night fell, and 
the moon shone over the huge boulders of towering rocks, and the 
whispering wind swung from mass to mass and echoed back again 
whence it came. It was an evening of enchantment. 

On making other sorties into the country I perceived an innate in- 
telligence in the most ignorant peasant. The average one could not 
tell the names of the simplest plants or flowers, but one look from 
the eye, one tone of the voice, was comprehended in a flash. Even the 
gypsy children in the outskirts of Barcelona, with their little dirty 
feet and tattered clothing, who danced weird dances and flattered 
strangers for pennies, had a natural brightness beyond belief. 

But this intelligence was not being directed, and one reason was 
inherent in the rebellious nature of the Catalan ; he would have pre- 
ferred no system of government at all if that had been possible, for 
he was restless and tumultuous under restraint. 

When I saw children leading the blind about the streets day after 
day, I asked, "Don't they have to be in school ? Isn't education made 
compulsory by the Government?" 

I was laughed at. "If the Government sent our children to school, 
we would know it was the wrong sort of school." 

Parents who could afford it, however, were willing enough to 
have them go to Ferrer's schools. Two thirds of the Spanish people 
had not been able to read or write before his time. The teacher, who 
worked constantly all the year round, averaged about sixteen dollars 
a month. "He is hungrier than a schoolmaster" was a household 
axiom. 



THE PEASANTS ARE KINGS 163 

Since Ferrer's first school had opened fourteen years previously, 
some forty-six had begun to operate, and, in addition, most towns 
of any size had at least one rationalist school which was maintained 
by the workers and also used Ferrer's texts. The groundwork was 
then being laid for the children of yesterday to become the leaders 
in today's fight. The pupils I saw at near-by Sabadella, at Granada, 
and at Seville, were being taught the processes of life from the cell 
up, and their instructors were really trying to give them a scientific 
instead of a theological attitude. 

Because of the long mental and physical isolation imposed upon 
them by the Church, which controlled all education, five thousand 
towns and villages could be reached only by trails and tracks. The 
Church had objected to having roads built because, once transportation 
were made more accessible, women could more easily leave their 
homes in the country and go to the city where evil awaited them — 
their morals were being safeguarded by cowpaths. 

Most of Spain was a gaunt, denuded, tragic country with vast, 
desolate steppes and red, impoverished soil which gave the feeling it 
had been soaked in human blood for centuries. Certainly the spill- 
ing of blood had been a matter of indifference in Spanish history. In 
a sense the whole people were lawless, hostile to rulers. Every child 
knew the evils of El Caciquismo. Some Spaniard has said, "Democ- 
racy, Republicanism, or Socialism have in reality little to do in our 
country, for we do not willingly accept either king, president, priest, 
or prophet." 

The worker in Catalonia had small faith in government, no matter 
what the brand, and kept straight to the one issue — revolution 
through economic action, chiefly the general strike. He did not look 
upon the Government as a vague, mysterious something for the deeds 
or blunders of which no one could be blamed; he demanded that 
those in authority should give accounting for the results of their 
authority. He never forgot a wrong, and usually those responsible 
paid the bill. I sometimes thought his "attempts" were carried out 
more from a spirit of revenge and individual hatred than as a social 
protest. 

At the head of the Rambla was a great square, the Plaza de la 
Constitucion, and there each day from five to six the populace took 



164 MARGARET SANGER 

its airing. Thousands of feet had so worn the pavement that it needed 
replacement. One noon the square was torn up. Nobody could walk 
there for twenty-four hours, the workmen were busy, ropes were 
placed across both ends of the promenade, and a huge sign was 
erected, "No trespassing allowed. By Order of the Government." 

Loiterers gathered to look at the proclamation. They began talk- 
ing, their gestures growing more and more vehement, until finally 
they pulled down the ropes and deliberately trod on the fresh con- 
crete. They were not going to be forbidden by the Government ! The 
entire job had to be done over again, and I noticed the next night 
six mounted police were guarding all four sides. But nobody seemed 
to give either incident the slightest attention. 

Catalans were a race of individualists, each a law unto himself. 
Their most marked characteristics were independence and personal 
dignity. Even Pepet, the waiter at my hotel, knew how to use his 
freedom. Sometimes he calmly left the dining room and went down 
the street for a shave while we were having our soup. He eventually 
returned for the following course, happy and clean, his absence un- 
reproved. 

Whenever the conversation of the guests interested him, Pepet en- 
tered in quite as naturally as though he were sitting and being served 
instead of serving. In any other country this would have been resented 
as insolence, but here every courtesy and respect was shown to him 
just as he showed it to others. If you said you were going to go by a 
certain tram to a certain place to be there at three in the afternoon, 
he interrupted, "Pardon me, Senora, you do not need to be there un- 
til four-thirty, and it is much better to go by this other route." 

Like the rest I said, "Right, Pepet, we shall take your advice." 

With the expulsion of the Jews from Spain vanished the driving 
force for commercial initiative, a quality, fortunately or unfortu- 
nately, greatly lacking in the country. Perez Galdos said : 

The capital defect of the Spaniards of your time is that you live 
exclusively the life of words, and the language is so beautiful that 
the delight in the sweet sound of it woos you to sleep. You speak too 
much. You lavish without stint a wealth of phrases to conceal the 
poverty of your actions. 



THE PEASANTS ARE KINGS 1 65 

I did not believe this entirely true, but without doubt the Spanish 
had a maddening habit of procrastination. It was "Si, Si, Sefiora, 
assuredly, certainly," all gracious promising — and then nothing hap- 
pening. To an American this was especially aggravating, because he 
was always in a constant hurry; he expected to see and know the 
whole of Spain in a month. But the Spaniard was not to be rushed. 
When asked what time it was, he might reply, "Perhaps four hours 
more of the sun." 

This defiance of clocks and the absence of strain and bustle pleased 
me personally. A story was told of a Spaniard going to seek his for- 
tune in South America. After finding a position to his satisfaction he 
worked three hours and then suddenly asked for his pay. When his 
employer requested the cause of his abrupt leave-taking, he ex- 
claimed angrily, "Do you think I'm going to spend all my life work- 
ing for you ?" 

Don Quixote truly represented the Spanish temperament. The 
strong enthusiasm which was shown for a project and the still 
stronger imagination which not only saw the matter begun but also 
finished, was Spanish to the last degree. The knight of La Mancha 
thought nothing of invading cities and fighting giants, but it ended 
in thinking about it. "I consider all that already done." 

Spanish character, so paradoxical, so attractive, and often so diffi- 
cult to understand, fascinated me. I could exhaust myself in ad- 
jectives — fickle, impetuous, rich-souled, ascetic, passionate, realistic, 
individualistic. Courtesy and ceremony were second nature to the 
Catalans of Barcelona, supposed to be the most dangerous and law- 
less city in Europe, where thousands of anarchists gathered and 
plotted and where bombs were thrown wrapped up in flowers. 

I remember how on the suburban trams going high into the moun- 
tains, sellers of hot and cold omelets ran up and down the station 
platforms. Anybody who bought one, before eating it himself, offered 
it to all the passengers in the car, even though they might be carrying 
their own lunches. 

To accept, however, was a shocking breach of good form. The 
offerer protested that you must take it, and you had to think fast for 
a plausible excuse. "My friends are waiting for me to dine with 



1 66 MARGARET SANGER 

them," or "I've just had something at the last station." You must 
never, never, never accept. 

Havelock used to tell of a grave error he had once made when 
traveling in Spain. When he had admired a piece of jewelry, the 
lady to whom it belonged had removed it promptly and thrust it upon 
him, saying, "I am honored to give it to you." She had been so in- 
sistent that, though thoroughly uncomfortable, he had taken it — the 
very worst thing he could have done. Soon it disappeared from his 
effects, but what was his surprise on his next encounter with the 
lady to find her wearing it again with no sign of discomposure. Her 
servants had been so indignant that one of them had immediately 
stolen it back. 

Spanish men were not only courteous to women but also to each 
other, having no hesitancy at showing their regard and affection. 
Even the beggars addressed each other in the most high-flown 
phrases, "Your Highness," or "Your Grace." One might ask, 
"Where is Your Excellency to sleep tonight?" 

"Under the bridge, My Lord." 

They lacked that poverty-in-the-soul look that existed in the same 
class in other countries. Assuming the condition of one tattered and 
ragged specimen to be temporary, I questioned him, "What do you 
do ordinarily?" 

"I saunter, I idle, I loaf." 

"But what work do you do ?" 

He drew himself up with the utmost hauteur, and said proudly, 
"I do not work. I am a beggar." 

Doing business with the Spaniards required a knowledge of finesse 
quite foreign to the average American. I, for example, saw a basket 
in a shop window which I felt I really must have. My escort and I 
went into the store. Since the proprietor did not speak English, all I 
could do was gaze longingly, take it in my hand, and ask my com- 
panion, "How much do you suppose this is?" He made no answer, 
but pointed to something else on the wall, and we left without learn- 
ing the price. I thought he was a terribly stupid person. 

The next day I passed the same place with Portet, and I begged, 
"Oh, do come in and ask how much that basket is. I want to buy it." 



THE PEASANTS ARE KINGS 1 67 

He smiled at me indulgently. "You know in our country we can- 
not just go into places and find out prices. This man is a craftsman. 
We will talk to him." 

The proprietor and his wife shook hands with us and brought the 
best wine from the cellar. Then the former said, "The Sefiora was 
here yesterday. Tell us about her." 

"She comes from North America," answered Portet. 

"Tell us about North America." 

After forty minutes of this, during which I kept one eye on the 
wicker container but was unable to divert the conversation to it, 
we said, "Hasta la vista," and bowed our way out. 

A week later Portet and I, following the lodestone of my particu- 
lar basket, sought the shop once more. Relations had now been estab- 
lished, and we were entitled to ask about it. But we still could not 
demand outright, "How much does it cost?" We must say, "This 
basket must be worth so and so," making the figure higher than it 
should be. 

"Oh, no, no, no, no!" the proprietor protested. "It is not worth 
that. My humble hands fashioned it. It is hardly worth anything." 

He endeavored to make me accept it for nothing. I had to refuse 
and once more try to make him take more than its value. Never was 
there such a juggling before we finally arrived at the exact amount 
of pesetas. 

On my departure from the country I had to break through a simi- 
lar punctilio. I spent about seven weeks in Barcelona and was never 
presented with a hotel bill — none for lodging, for laundry, for meals, 
or for extras such as coffee. The day was coming when I must go 
back to France, and I did not want too much Spanish money with 
me — just enough to take me to the border. From there I had already 
purchased my tickets for England. 

Each time I mentioned cuenta to the proprietor, bowing and turn- 
ing up his palms he answered, "Si, Si, Sefiora," until finally, on my 
last morning, I marched resolutely up to the desk and said, "I shall 
miss my train if I have to go to the American Express to get more 
money. You really must tell me how much I owe." 

He went upstairs, I waited. Finally he descended, hjs hair stand- 



1 68 MARGARET SANGER 

ing on end. He threw the reckoning down on the table with a most 
vindictive look. I glanced at it. The total was very low; it could 
barely have covered the cost of the food. 

"I have been humiliated!" he exclaimed dramatically. 

"Whatever is the matter?" I questioned. 

"We are living in the most hellish country on earth !" 

"Why, what's happened?" 

"A lady comes all the way from North America. She visits us, 
she stays here, we like her, and I must present her with this sordid 
bill!" 

Some day when the fighting is over I shall return again to Spain. 



Chapter Fourteen 

O, TO BE IN ENGLAND 



WHEN I reached London it was spring, and beautiful as only 
spring in England can be. I longed to get out into the coun- 
try and, through the kindness of Dr. Alice Vickery, was soon lodged 
in a private home in Hampstead Gardens next door to her quaint, 
ivy-covered, red-brick house. In the large garden in back we often 
had tea under the blossoming apple trees. There, dressed in gray or 
purple, with white collar and a wisp of lace not quite a bonnet on 
her head, she entertained the young and modern women of England 
who were working for reforms of no matter what kind. Still, at 
the age of eighty, she was alert upon all questions of the day, busily 
engaged in writing leaflets or articles pointing out the weak spots 
in social programs. 

Dr. Vickery was so full of the living side of Neo-Malthusianism 
that I could ill afford to forego one possible hour with her. Often 
when we found ourselves alone in her drawing room I sat at her 
feet and heard the story of the pioneer Malthusians, what they had 
had to undergo, and what they had accomplished. For my benefit she 
brought out of her attic a veritable treasure of the early days — old 
circulars, pamphlets, and letters now, I am afraid, destroyed. 

Almost every afternoon, taking her walking stick and with Dr. 
Binnie Dunlop for a companion, Dr. Vickery boarded the tram to 
attend some gathering. She had been one of the first to welcome the 
militant suffragettes, and she never missed a suffrage meeting, nor, 
for that matter, any other significant one on infant or maternal wel- 

169 



170 MARGARET SANGER 

fare, eugenics, or public health. She always went with the definite 
purpose of getting the audience down to fundamentals. In time she 
became a familiar figure. As soon as she entered a hall you could 
feel those present aligning themselves against her. They knew she 
was going to bring up a controversial subject that no one wanted dis- 
cussed, such as birth control. It was like casting a boulder into a nice 
quiet lake, but, with an unruffled exterior and grim determination, 
she invariably rose just the same, asked the chairman to recognize 
her, and said her say on the Feminist side of the question. From the 
lips of this Victorian old lady it sounded strange to hear frank re- 
marks about the importance of limiting offspring. Dr. Dunlop, with 
Scotch determination, was also bent on setting people straight; he 
followed her and expounded the medical aspects of population. 

In June Dr. Vickery asked me to tell my story to a group of her 
friends. Among them was Edith How-Martyn, who had recently 
graduated from the London School of Economics. But already the 
zealous ardor of this small and slight person had landed her in jail 
for suffrage. She had now split from Mrs. Pankhurst, unable to 
subscribe to the militant policy. 

The American woman is apt to say, "Anything I can do for you, 
let me know," and then go away, her conscience relieved. The Eng- 
lishwoman states definitely that she can get up a meeting, bring you 
in touch with so and so, give you money, or get money for you. 
Edith How-Martyn in her quiet manner said to me, "I think what 
you have told us today should have a larger audience. Will you give 
a lecture if we arrange it for you? We'll do the donkey work; all 
you have to do is speak." 

In a few days the time and place were set. I was to appear in 
Fabian Hall the following month under my own name. 

The chairs in the auditorium were wooden and the interior was 
unheated — not like an American hall. The audience was quite differ- 
ent from the little Socialist gatherings of working women I had ad- 
dressed at home. The atrocious and hideous English hats gave it an 
intellectual and highly respectable air. These representatives of nearly 
every social and civic organization in London, had the rationalist at- 
titude and preferred to listen to principles and theories. I told them 
what I had been trying to do through the Woman Rebel and ex- 



O, TO BE IN ENGLAND 171 

plained my private and personal conception of what Feminism should 
mean; that is, women should first free themselves from biological 
slavery, which could best be accomplished through birth control. 
This was, generally speaking, the introduction of the term into 
England. 

Many came up and talked to me afterwards, among them Marie 
Stopes, a paleontologist who had made a reputation with work on 
coal. Would I dome to her home and discuss the book she was writ- 
ing? 

Over the teacups I found her to have an open, frank manner that 
quite won me. She took me into her confidence at once, stating her 
marriage had been unconsummated, and for that reason she was se- 
curing an annulment. Her book, Married Love, was based largely 
on her own experiences and the unhappiness that came to people 
from ignorance and lack of understanding in wedlock, and she 
hoped it would help others. She was extremely interested in the 
correlation of marital success to tiirth control knowledge, although 
she admitted she knew nothing about the latter. Could I tell her 
exactly what methods were used and how? In spite of my belief 
that the Netherlands clinics could be improved upon, I was fired with 
fervor for the idea as such, and described them as I had seen them. 

Later when I came back to the United States, I brought with me 
the manuscript of Married Love, and tried every established pub- 
lisher in New York, receiving a rejection from each. Finally I in- 
duced Dr. William J. Robinson to publish it under the auspices of 
his Critic and Guide, a monthly magazine which took up many sub- 
jects the Journal of the American Medical Association would not 
touch. Unfortunately even here it had to be expurgated. When I 
cabled Dr. Stopes I had a publisher in New York, her new husband, 
H. V. Roe, financed an unabridged English edition which appeared 
simultaneously. 

No one can underestimate the work Marie Stopes has done. 
Though her other books, Radiant Motherhood and Wise Parent- 
hood, were limited in value because they were based on limited per- 
sonal experience, she has handled sex knowledge with delicacy and 
wisdom, placing it in a modern, practical category. She started the 
first birth control clinic in England, but she was not a pioneer in the 



172 MARGARET SANGER 

movement. Annie Besant, Dr. Vickery, the Drysdales, and many 
others had plowed the ground and sown the seed. It needed only 
a new voice, articulate and clear as hers, to push her into the front 
ranks of the movement, where she must have been much surprised^ 
to find herself. 

Many people went out of their way to be kind, to me in those days, 
I was often asked to the home of E. P. C. Haynes, solicitor, writer 
on freedom of the press, and a fine adviser. Around his table, one of 
the grandest set anywhere in England, could usually be found a large 
group of distinguished people. Among them was the American Civil 
War veteran, Major G. P. Putnam, a dapper, lively, alert little pub- 
lisher with a white mustache and cold blue eyes. He was conservative 
and formal, but at the same time a firebrand in his fashion and an en- 
thusiast for certain issues. Haynes had invited him to hear my views, 
and himself introduced the subject of birth control. Thus I was en- 
abled to pave the way for having G. P. Putnam's Sons eventually 
take over the publication of Married Love in this country, although 
not until 193 1, through the Major's efforts, was the ban lifted which 
prohibited the importation of the complete edition into the United 
States. 

Harold Cox, brilliant Member of Parliament and editor of the 
Edinburgh Review, was another delightful host at Old Kennards in 
Buckinghamshire. In the Review he was constantly helping to form 
an enlightened public opinion on birth control, having every argu- 
ment at his finger tips and never missing a chance to answer ques- 
tions in the London Times. 

Hugh and Janet de Selincourt's place at Torrington, Sussex, where 
Shelley was born, always was a haven of refuge. After five days' 
work in town I could come, tired and pent-up, for a week-end. I 
loved the joy and simplicity of the music there, the lighthearted con- 
versation, and tea on the lawn. From there you saw English ivy 
climbing up to the thatched roof, and a pond, a small one, which had 
been converted into a swimming pool. The general impression was 
of shrubbery and old walls with fruit trees trellised against them. 
Beyond the velvet green grass were red tree roses, beautiful borders 
of pink lupins, and delphiniums, the tallest and bluest I have ever 
seen, From the dining-room window the effect was that of a tapestry. 



0, TO BE IN ENGLAND 1 73 

I wanted some day to embody the rambling spirit of this home in one 
of my own. 

Here again laughter bound me to these people. We laughed and 
we laughed and we laughed. Whole days were spent in gaiety over 
the most absurd things. Hugh could never quite accept me as a cru- 
sader; he went into roars of merriment whenever I mentioned the 
subject of population — it was too much for a woman in a yellow 
dress to bother about. 

But many of my week-ends were spent in "bothering" about it. 
At Sunday afternoon labor meetings in London someone was always 
holding forth. "Here's a chance for you to talk birth control," Rose 
Witcop once urged. 

It was an opportunity to reach working people and I agreed, but 
lunch of that day found me trembling. Henry Sara, a young man 
but old in the ways of the speaker, noticed I was not eating or drink- 
ing and could hardly utter a word. "I say, what's the idea of all this 
worry? What you must think about is that everybody there comes 
merely to hear somebody or anybody. They've no notion what you're 
going to say. Anything is all right with them. Get that in your mind 
and stop worrying." 

His friendly encouragement gave me a little more fortitude, but 
on the way to the hall Rose Witcop took me severely to task for the 
trembling, which I seemed unable to stop. "These are just plain 
people you're going to speak to. It's utter nonsense to be nervous 
about it." 

When Rose stood up to introduce me, she began, "Comrades — " 
There was a long pause. For the second time she tried in a less as- 
sured tone, "Comrades — " Another interval and a third time, in a 
voice so weak she herself could hardly hear it, she attempted, "Com- 
rades — " Then, barely whispering, "Excuse me," she sat down. By 
comparison my speech was not bad. 

Writing at this time was a means of expression much easier than 
speaking. I had not forgotten my subscribers to the Woman Rebel. 
I had to fulfill my obligations and supply something to take the place 
of the three issues which I had been unable to furnish them. There- 
fore, I wrote three pamphlets on methods of contraception in Eng- 
land, the Netherlands, and France respectively. Printing them cost 



174 MARGARET SANGER 

me a considerable amount of money. My friends in Canada, knowing 
I was not affluent, now and then when they had a little windfall or 
unexpected dividend sent me small checks of from five to ten 
pounds, saying, "To use for your work." These had come in quite 
often. 

( On one occasion I had squeezed my pocketbook dry paying for 
the last pamphlet ; I had not another penny to buy stamps. Ten days 
had gone by, and I kept wishing something might come in to help 
me out. That morning a letter arrived. I tore it apart and a money 
order dropped out. Hurrying as fast as I could to the post office 
I received the cash, spent it all on stamps, and hastened back in 
the hope of getting the whole edition off on the Arabic; in wartime 
sailings had to be considered. One batch of envelopes had already 
gone into the pillar box, and I was just finishing addressing and 
stamping the second lot when I heard the knocker on the door be- 
low clatter through the house. It had the ring of authority and 
sounded so ominous that I felt it must have something to do with me. 

Sure enough, in a few moments a bobby and a man in plain clothes 
appeared at my threshold. They asked whether I were the person who 
had been sending quantities of mail to a foreign address. 

"Yes," I admitted in a small voice, wondering what on earth was 
going to happen now. 

The bobby came closer, showed me an unopened envelope, and 
demanded sternly, "Did you post this?" 

"I think so." 

"Madam, in England we never put His Majesty on upside down. 
We do not represent our King standing on his head. Will you please, 
in affixing your stamps, pay attention to the customs of our coun- 
try?" 

The care with which I stuck on the remainder right side up de- 
layed me so that I barely made the Arabic. Only then did I have 
time to read the letter. I took it out of my bag, thinking how won- 
derful it was of my friends to send me the money and how much 
good I had been able to do with it. To my consternation and amaze- 
ment it was not for my use, but to buy gifts — certain books to be sent 
back as soon as possible. 

The money was gone and the presents could not be purchased. 



O, TO BE IN ENGLAND 175 

After all this rush and pother the Arabic was torpedoed and went 
down with the entire two thousand pamphlets. I made another effort, 
this time successfully completed, and shaped an article on Emerson, 
Thoreau, and Humphrey Noyes and the Oneida Community, about 
whom the English were talking. 

Meanwhile I had written to Canada apologizing and saying I ex- 
pected shortly to be able to fulfill the commissions. I now had an 
opening ahead of me for a career abroad. Portet's publishing house 
in Barcelona was closely allied with others in Paris. Through him I 
was offered the job of choosing appropriate books in English, whicll 
could be published in both French and Spanish, especially works 
that would be of help to women and labor. The salary was satisfac- 
tory, the job itself interesting, and it gave promise of permanency as 
soon as the War should be over. I had almost decided to take it, 
even selecting a little house in Versailles with sunny rooms and a 
garden for the children. 

There was only one drawback — the subtle, persistent dread that 
something was wrong with Peggy. Night after night her voice star- 
tled me from deep sleep and left me in a state of agitation until I 
received the next letter containing news that all was going well. I 
tried to dismiss this fear and would have it partially submerged, but 
always the same troubled voice rang in my ears, "Mother, Mother, 
are you coming back?" 

One definite though inexplicable experience kept puzzling me. 
As I unclosed my eyes in the morning, or even before I was completely 
awake, I became conscious of the number 6, as though that numeral 
were repeating itself again and again in my drowsy mind. I often 
tried to fit it into some event of the day — six o'clock, sixpence, the 
price of tea, or anything else amusing, and as casual or silly as I 
could make up. This I did to protect myself against the premonition 
which seemed at first to come upon me with the recurrence of this 
number. Later, like a leaf on a wall calendar, NOV. 6 stood out. 
'/When the publisher asked me to commit myself by signing a 
three-year contract to stay in Paris, I said, "Yes, I will if you'll 
guarantee to lock me up or send me to Africa or the North Pole until 
after November 6th." 

"Why November 6th?" 



176 MARGARET SANGER 

"I don't know, but I'm certain that something important is to oc- 
cur on that day, something different, and something which will affect 
my entire future." 

He drew up our plans as of January 1st of the following year. 

Edith Ellis was lecturing in America, and by letter we arranged 
for her to bring back Peggy and Grant, because it appeared I might 
be staying for some time. Then, since only Peggy seemed lonely 
and in need of her mother and Grant was happy in school, it was 
determined he should be left there. Edith was to sail with Peggy on 
the Lusitania. 
i When word was flashed that the liner had been torpedoed, I stood 
in the middle of the night in front of the Cunard office, scanning 
with horror the mounting ranks of missing and dead. Not until 
two in the morning was the list complete and could I breathe once 
more ; neither Peggy's nor Edith's name was on it. Edith had received 
one of those slips warning prospective passengers that the ship might 
be blown up, and was one of the few who had heeded the admonition 
and transferred to another boat. jEven so, the thought of being re- 
sponsible for Peggy had been too alarming and she had decided not 
to bring her. 

The War had sent many Americans back from Europe and Bill 
had returned to New York. I had had a detailed letter from him 
describing the stirring events of the previous December. A man in- 
troducing himself as A. Heller had called upon him at his studio 
and requested a copy of Family Limitation, pleading that he was 
poor, had too large a family, and was a friend of mine. Bill said he 
was sorry but we had agreed that I was to carry on my work inde- 
pendently of him, and he did not even think he had any of the 
pamphlets. However, the man's story was so pathetic that he rum- 
maged around and by chance found one in the library drawer. 

A few days later Bill opened the door to a gray-haired, side- 
whiskered six-footer who lost no time in announcing, "I am Mr. 
Comstock. I have a warrant for your arrest on the grounds of cir- 
culating obscene literature." Accompanying him was the so-called 
Heller, who turned out to be Charles J. Bamberger, an agent of the 
New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. The three departed 



O, TO BE IN ENGLAND 1 77 

but Bill soon found himself in a restaurant instead of the police sta- 
tion. When he protested that he wished to consult a lawyer with- 
out delay, Comstock, between mouthfuls of lunch, offered advice. 
"Young man, I want to act as a brother to you. Lawyers are ex- 
pensive and will only aggravate your case." Here he patted Bill on 
the shoulder. "Plead guilty to this charge, and I'll ask for a sus- 
pended sentence." 

Bill's answer was that, though he had been in Europe when the 
pamphlet had been written, he believed in the principles embodied in 
it, and that, therefore, his own principles were at stake. He would 
not plead guilty. "You know as well as I do, Mr. Comstock, there's 
nothing obscene in that pamphlet." 

"Young man, I have been in this work for twenty years, and 
that leaflet is the worst thing I have ever seen." 

This sort of conversation went on all afternoon; Comstock even 
tried to bribe Bill to turn states' evidence by disclosing my where- 
abouts. It was his custom to arrive at the police station so late that 
his prisoner could not communicate with a lawyer or bonding of- 
fice and had to spend the night in jail. He could then make a state- 
ment to the papers that his captive had been unable to secure bail. 

When Comstock and Bill at last reached the Yorkville Police 
Court and the clerk had asked the latter how he wished to plead, 
Comstock spoke for him, "He pleads guilty." 

"I do not," expostulated Bill. "I plead not guilty." 

He was arraigned and bail fixed at five hundred dollars, but he 
was obliged to spend thirty-six hours in jail before it could be pro- 
cured. 

In September I had word that, after several postponements, his 
trial had finally come up before Justices Mclnerney, Herbert, and 
Salmon. He started to read his typewritten statement. "I admit that 
I broke the law, and yet I claim that in every real sense it is the law 
and not I that is on trial here today." 

Justice Mclnerney interrupted him. "You admit you are guilty, 
and all this statement of yours is just opinions. I'm not going to 1 
have a lot of rigmarole on the record. We've no time to bother. This 
book is not only indecent but immoral. Its circulation is a menace 



178 MARGARET SANGER 

to society. Too many women are going around advocating woman 
suffrage. If they would go around advocating bearing children we 
should be better off. 

"The statute gives you the privilege of being fined for this of- 
fense, but I do not believe this should be so. A man, guilty as you 
are, ought to have no alternative from a prison sentence. One hun- 
dred and fifty dollars or thirty days in jail." 

"Then I want to say to the court," shouted Bill, leaning forward 
and raising his hand for greater emphasis, "that I would rather be 
in jail with my self-respect than in your place without it!" 

Although he was convinced of the justice of my cause, this was 
the first and only copy of the pamphlet he had ever given out It 
was one of life's sharpest ironies that, despite our separation, he 
should have been drawn into my battle, and go to prison for it. 

When I received Bill's letter bearing this news, I tore across the 
lawn to Dr. Vickery's. Dr. Drysdale happened to be there, and in 
his indignation his face became red and his hands were clenched. He 
tramped up and down the floor in a frenzy of rage that such a thing 
could be done to any human being. I am still touched when I think 
of this mild, gentle person being moved to depths of anger over an 
injustice which did not affect him personally. 

The question before me was, "Should I go back?" As had gone 
Bill's trial so would probably go my own. I did not want to sacrifice 
myself in a lost cause. I was young, and knew I should be used for 
something. Temporarily postponing my final answer to the publish- 
ing house, I decided to return to the United States, but only long 
enough to survey the situation, to gather up my children. I intended, 
if possible, to come back to that little house in Versailles. 



T 



Chapter Fifteen 



HIGH HANGS THE GAUNTLET 



"Let God and man decree 
Laws for themselves and not for me; 
Their deeds I judge and much condemn 
Yet when did I make laws for them?" 

A. E. HOUSMAN 



. fff- fff - fff - fff- fff- fff- fff- fff- fff- 
5SSr N\V* \\V* \W \W \W SiW VW V»V* 

HE end of September, 19 15, I set sail from Bordeaux. \[ re- 
member how interminable that voyage was across the dan- 
gerous, foggy Atlantic. The shadow of the Lusitania hung over us. 
The ship was absolutely dark, and tension crackled in the very air. 
My own thoughts were black as the night and the old nervousness, 
the nervousness that came with a queer gripping at the pit of the 
stomach, was upon me ; a dread presentiment and a foreboding were 
with me almost incessantly. 

When I succeeded in snatching a few hours' sleep I was startled 
out of unpleasant dreams. One of them was of attempting to strug- 
gle through a crowded street against traffic; I was pushed to the 
curb and had to make my way cautiously. The mechanical, autom- 
aton-like crowds were walking, walking, walking, always in the 
opposite direction. Then suddenly in my dream the people turned 
into mice — thousands and thousands of them ; they even smelled like 
mice. I awakened and had to open the porthole to rid the room of 
that musty smell of mice. 

At last the lights of Staten Island, winking like specters in the 
dim dawn, signaled our safe arrival at quarantine. As the ship sidled 
along the wharf at West Fourteenth Street on that gray October 
morning, a new exhilaration, a new hope arose in my heart. 

To see American faces again after the unutterable despair of 

179 



l8o MARGARET SANGER 

Europe, to sense the rough democracy of the porters and of the 
good-hearted, hard-boiled taxi-drivers ; to breathe in the crisp, elec- 
tric autumn air of home — all these brought with them an irresistible 
gladness. Because I wanted the feeling to linger, I refused a taxi, 
picked up my small bag, and walked away from the pier, looking 
about. 

[At the first news stand I passed I caught sight of the words, 
"What Shall We Do About Birth Control?" on the cover of the 
Pictorial Review. It seemed strange to be greeted, not by friends 
or relatives, but by a phrase of your own carried on a magazine. I 
purchased it and, singing to myself, went on to a hotel where the 
children were brought to me. I cannot describe the joy of being re- 
united with them. 

That evening I sat down at my desk and wrote several letters. I 
notified Judge Hazel and Assistant District Attorney Content that 
I was now back and ready for trial, and inquired whether the in- 
dictments of the previous year were still pending; I was politely 
informed that they were. 

A note more difficult to compose went to the National Birth Con- 
trol League, which had been re-organized in my absence under the 
leadership of Mary Ware Dennett, Clara Stillman, and Anita Block. 
To it had been turned over all my files, including the list of sub- 
scribers to the Woman Rebel. I asked them what moral support I 
could expect from the League, saying this would help to determine 
the length of my stay. 

Mrs. Stillman, the secretary, invited me to call a few days later at 
her home, where an executive meeting was to convene. I went with 
keen anticipation, totally unprepared for the actual answer. The 
committee had met. Mrs. Dennett, Mrs. Stillman, and Anita were 
all there. Mrs. Dennett spoke for the group ; the National Birth Con- 
trol League disagreed with my methods, my tactics, with everything 
I had done. Such an organization as theirs, the function of which was 
primarily to change the laws in an orderly and proper manner, could 
not logically sanction anyone who had broken those laws. 

After delivering this ultimatum, Mrs. Dennett walked to the door 
with me. Would I mind giving her the names and addresses of those 
socially prominent and distinguished persons I had found on my 



HIGH HANGS THE GAUNTLET l8l 

European trip to be interested? Heartsick as I was over my recep- 
tion, I was also amused at her shrewdness. 

Mrs. Dennett was a good promoter and experienced campaigner, 
a capable office executive, an indefatigable worker for suffrage and 
peace, with a background that might have been invaluable. I often 
regretted that we could not have combined our efforts. Had we been 
able to do so the movement might have been pushed many years 
ahead: 

My fourth communication was to Dr. William J. Robinson, an 
emigre from the land of orthodox medicine, who was possessed of 
a sensitivity to current moods. When he had realized that Will 
Durant's lectures had aroused interest in sex psychology, he had 
stepped in to speak to larger audiences, using a more popular ap- 
proach, although, as far as I know, he had never publicly discussed 
the prevention of conception. 

Dr. Abraham Jacoby, beloved dean of the profession, in accept- 
ing the presidency of the Academy of Medicine, had backed birth 
control, and through Dr. Robinson's endeavors a small committee 
had later been formed to look into it. From the reports that had 
come to me I could not discover whether any harmonious agreement 
that the subject lay within the province of medicine had been made. 
To my inquiry Dr. Robinson replied that the committee had met 
only once and he considered I could expect no support from them. 
He enclosed a check for ten dollars towards the expenses of my trial. 

Here were two disappointments to face. Both these organizations 
had seemed so well suited to continue progress: one to change the 
laws, the other to take proper medical charge. Neither had fulfilled 
my hopes and therefore I felt I had to enter the fray again. My 
burning concern for the thousands of women who went unregarded 
could apparently find no official endorsement ; birth control was 
back again where it had started. I was convinced I had to depend 
solely upon the compassionate insight of intelligent women, which 
I was certain was latent and could be aroused. 

But these problems were suddenly swept aside by a crisis of a 
more intimate nature, a tragedy about which I find myself still un- 
able to write, though so many years have passed. 

A few days after my arrival Peggy was taken ill with pneumonia. 



1 82 MARGARET SANGER 

When Mr. Content telephoned to say I had better come down and 
talk it over, I could not go. He was extremely kind, assuring me 
there was no hurry and he would postpone the trial until I was 
free. This allowed me to devote my whole attention and time to her. 

Peggy died the morning of November 6, 191 5. ; 

The joy in the fullness of life went out of it then and has never 
quite returned/; Deep in the hidden realm of my consciousness my 
little girl has continued to live, and in that strange, mysterious place 
where reality and imagination meet, she has grown up to woman- 
hood. There she leads an ideal existence untouched by harsh actuality 
and disillusion. 

[ Men and women from all classes, from nearly every city in Amer- 
ica, poured upon me their sympathy. Money for my trial came 
beyond my understanding — not large amounts, but large for the 
senders — from miners of West Virginia and lumbermen of the 
North Woods. Some had walked five miles to read Family Limita- 
tion; others had had it copied for them. Women wrote of children 
dead a quarter of a century for whom they were still secretly mourn- 
ing, and sent me pictures and locks of hair of their own dead babies. 
I had never fully realized until then that the loss of a child remains 
un forgotten to every mother during her lifetime. \ 

Public opinion had been focused on Comstock's activities by 
Bill's sentence, and the liberals had been aroused. Committees of two 
and three came to request me to take up the purely legislative task 
of changing the Federal law. Aid would be forthcoming — special 
trains to Congress, investigations, commissions, and victory in sight 
before the year was over! It was tempting. It seemed so feasible 
on the surface, so much easier than agonizing delays through the 
courts. Many others advised me just as before that in pleading 
guilty I was choosing the best field in which to make my fight. 

One of those to urge me towards a middle course was Max 
Eastman, who possessed an unusual evenness of temper and toler- 
ance towards all who opposed him as well as a keen mind and keen 
imagination which followed hypotheses to logical conclusions. This 
soft-voiced, lethargic poet, mentally and emotionally controlled, had 
too great a sense of humor and ability in visualizing events in their 
proper perspective to advocate direct action. 



HIGH HANGS THE GAUNTLET 183 

Max made an appointment for me to see Samuel Untermyer, au- 
thority on constitutional law and a person to whom liberals turned 
because of the fight he had put up against the trusts; he might 
straighten out the legal aspects. I found him enthroned in his lux- 
urious office amid the most magnificent American Beauty roses — 
dozens and dozens and dozens. With his piercing eyes and head too 
large for his frame, he appeared a disembodied brain. Though the 
appointment had been made with difficulty — writing and telephon- 
ing back and forth through secretaries to be verified — time now 
was nothing to him. He was so smooth, so courteous, so sympathetic, 
so unhurried; he seemed to understand and to be ready to lift the 
load of legal worry from my mind. 

Picking up the telephone, he said, "Get me Mr. Content." Then, 
"Harold, come on over to my office and bring your record on Mrs. 
Sanger." 

When the District Attorney had arrived, Mr. Untermyer' s whole 
voice changed. He spoke sternly to the young man. "Why, Harold, 
what are you trying to do — persecuting this little woman, so frail 
and so delicate, the mother of a family? You don't want to put her 
behind bars, do you? She's doing a noble work in the world and 
here you are behaving like this! Are you representing the Govern- 
ment or are you merely prejudiced in your own behalf?" 

Mr. Content replied respectfully, "Well, Mr. Untermyer, we don't 
want to prosecute Mrs. Sanger, but we want her to promise to obey 
the law." 

"Has she broken the law ?" 

"We have positive proof that she has violated it on a very large 
scale." 

Mr. Untermyer immediately assured him, "Why, of course, she'll 
promise not to break any more laws. Is that all it is? You just quash 
that indictment and forget about it." 

Mr. Content left. Mr. Untermyer turned to me genially and said, 
"Well, you see ? We've fixed that up." 

"What's going to happen? The law will be the same, won't it?" 

"Why, yes." 

"What was that you said about a promise?" 

"Oh, yes, write me a letter saying you won't break the law again." 



184 MARGARET SANGER 

"I couldn't promise that, Mr. Untermyer." 

"What?" 

"No, I couldn't do that. The law is there. Something must hap- 
pen to it." 

"The law may not be what it should be, but you'll never get any- 
where by violating it. It must be changed by legal methods ; gather 
all your friends and go to Congress." 

Again I stated my position. The law specified obscenity, and I had 
done nothing obscene. I even had the best of the Government as re- 
garded the precise charge. I had not given contraceptive information 
in the Woman Rebel, and therefore had not violated the law either 
in spirit or principle. But I had done so in circulating Family Limi- 
tation, and that would inevitably be brought up. I really wanted this, 
so that birth controj would be defined once and for all as either 
obscene or not obscene. 

Mr. Untermyer took down one of his ponderous books and read 
over the section in question. Again he said, "The evidence is that 
you have violated the law. We don't separate the spirit from the 
letter. It is all there. It seems to me that pleading guilty would let 
you out of your troubles without loss of dignity. You should con- 
sider yourself fortunate at the suggested outcome. You can gain 
nothing by trial. You cannot even get publicity in these days when 
the papers are crowded with war news and the big events of history 
are happening." 

I still could not admit his interpretation. You had to differentiate 
between the things mentioned in that law and actual obscenity; the 
courts would some day have to decide on this. 

"You have no case," Mr. Untermyer persisted. "If you have 
broken the law, there is nothing anyone can do or say to argue that 
fact away. We must prevent your going to jail, however. I'll see 
what I can do." 

"I'm not concerned with going to jail. Going in or staying out 
has nothing to do with it. The question at stake is whether I have 
or have not done something obscene. If I have done nothing obscene 
I cannot plead guilty." 

Mr. Untermyer was upset. Instead of his former warmth I was 
aware of a curt and cold politeness. I went from his office feeling I 



HIGH HANGS THE GAUNTLET 1 85 

had had an opportunity to make a powerful friend and had lost it 
by refusing to accept the legal point of view. 

Max also was decidedly angry. His attitude was, "We tried to 
help you, and you declined help." He wrote formally: 

You could accompany your plea of guilty with a statement, both 
before the Court and for the press, which would make it a far more 
signal attack upomthe law to whose violation you would be pleading 
guilty than a plea of not guilty. It would do a thousand times more 
good. At the same time it would satisfy your pride, or your feeling 
that you ought to be brave enough to stand up for what you think, 
or whatever it is that is making you refuse the advice of counsel. 

I would not plead guilty on any count. They could not make me. 
I felt deep within me that I was right and they were wrong. I still 
had that naive trust that when the facts were known, the Govern- 
ment would not wilfully condemn millions^0f wdnten to death, mis- 
ery, or abortion which left them physically damaged and spiritually 
crippled. 

Clarence Darrow and other liberal lawyers from various cities 
generously offered to come to New York to present the case free 
of charge, but after my Untermyer interview I was convinced that 
the quibbles of lawyers inevitably beclouded the fundamental issues ; 
I had to move people and persuade them emotionally. I had no prac- 
tice in public speaking ; mine was the valor of faith. However, I was 
certain that speaking from the fullness of my heart I would be 
guided by the greatness and profundity of my conviction. In spite 
of the old adage that "he who has himself for a lawyer has a fool 
for a client," I was confident that any jury of honest men would 
acquit me. 

I asked Mr. Content to put my case on the calendar as soon as 
possible. It was called for the end of November, then set for Janu- 
ary 1 8th, then January 24th. I used to go almost weekly to demand 
that it take place, always stressing the fact that I wanted a trial by 
jury. One of the judges that I came before in these various courts 
had previously asked me in a personal letter to send him Family 
Limitation, and I had mailed it to him with my compliments. The 
twinkle in his eyes was reflected in mine; we both knew that he as 
well as I had been technically breaking the law. 



1 86 MARGARET SANGER 

As the New York Sun commented, "The Sanger case presents 
the anomaly of a prosecutor loath to prosecute and a defendant 
anxious to be tried." The newspapers were taking ever-increasing 
notice. A photograph of myself and my two young sons circulated 
widely and seemed to alter the attitude of a heretofore cynical pub- 
lic. At that time I thought the papers were against me, but looking 
over these old clippings today I realize this was merely the imper- 
sonality of the news columns. Their editorial hesitancy made them 
appear, like all other conservative and reactionary forces, my op- 
ponents. But the rank and file of American newspaperdom, though 
they must always have their little jokes, have always been sympa- 
thetic. 

They printed the letter to Woodrow Wilson, initiated by Marie 
Stopes. It "begged to call the attention" of the President to the fact 
that I was in danger of criminal prosecution for circulating a pam- 
phlet on birth control, which was allowed in every civilized country 
except the United States; that England had passed through the 
phase of prohibiting this subject a generation before; and that to 
suppress serious and disinterested opinion on anything so important 
was detrimental to human progress. It respectfully urged the Presi- 
dent to exert his powerful influence in behalf of free speech and the 
betterment of the race. \This letter was invaluable by reason of its 
signatories — Lena Ashwell, William Archer, Percy Ames, Aylmer 
Maude, M. C. Stopes, Arnold Bennett, Edward Carpenter, Gilbert 
Murray, and H. G. Wells, whose name was newsj If a group of such 
eminence in England could afford to stand by me, then the same 
kind of people here might be less timorous. 

As public sentiment grew, telegrams and letters showered upon 
Judge Clayton demanding the dismissal of the charges against me. 
He piled them in wastebaskets and remarked in a bored tone to 
Mr. Content, "Take these Sanger letters away." That I was pre- 
paring to go to court undefended by counsel was making the mat- 
ter harder for them. 

My radical allies were, according to their habit, collecting money 
for my defense, but this had no effect on my private financial status. 
My sister, Ethel, who was living with me, thought I ought to be 



HIGH HANGS THE GAUNTLET 1 87 

considering the matter. One day she said, "I've a good case for 
you. Wouldn't you like to take it?" 

"What kind?" 

"Maternity. She expects to be delivered in a day or two — probably. 
a Caesarian. She asked for me, but I'd rather you had it." 

"I'm not interested, thank you. I've given up nursing." 

"Well, Mrs. Sanger," she remarked ironically, "would you mind 
telling me what you're going to do to earn your living?" 

"I'm not interested in earning my living. I've cast myself upon 
the universe and it will take care of me." 

She looked at me sadly and with worried apprehension. 

Three days later Ethel received the anticipated summons. On her 
way out she picked up the mail at the door. In it was a letter from 
a California acquaintance of hers who did not know where I was 
but had her address. "Will you please give the enclosed forty-five 
dollars to Margaret Sanger from her sympathizers?" 

Ethel handed it to me with the resigned comment, "Well, here's 
your check from God." 

The editor of the Woman Rebel had struck her single match of 
defiance, but she could be of slight significance in the forward march 
towards "women's rights." In Feminist circles I was little known. 
With my personal sorrow, my manifold domestic duties, my social 
shyness, I avoided meeting new people. My attitude thus created 
some reluctance among those who might otherwise have hastened 
to my aid. Indeed, I wanted a certain type of support, but I could 
not take the initiative in asking for it. 

This was suddenly done for me. One afternoon I was invited 
to a tea arranged by Henrietta Rodman, Feminist of Feminists, in 
her Greenwich Village apartment. Wells was particularly sanctified 
among her group and I must be all right if he approved. As a result 
of that meeting the suffrage worker,, Alice Carpenter, set the wheels 
in motion for a dinner at the Brevoort Hotel to be held January 
23rd, the evening preceding my trial. I was to be given a chance 
to say my say, speak my piece before a gathering of influential peo- 
ple. Although I did not see her until some years after, I thanked her 
in my heart many times for what she had done. 



1 88 MARGARET SANGER 

In the ballroom were collected several hundred people. Mary 
Heaton Vorse, Dr. Mary Halton, Jack Reed, Dr. Robinson, Frances 
Brooks Ackerman, Walter Lippmann, then of the New Republic, 
and Mrs. Thomas Hepburn, the Kathy Houghton of my Corning 
childhood, all were there. 

As we were about to go in to dinner, Rose Pastor Stokes, the 
Chairman, took me aside and said, "Something very disturbing has 
happened. We've just been talking to Dr. Jacoby. He has a speech 
ready in which he intends to blast you to the skies for interfering 
in what should be a strictly medical matter. Remember he's greatly 
admired and he's speaking here tonight for the doctors. We meant to 
have you come at the end of the program but now we're going to 
put you first so that you can spike his guns." 

My trepidation was increased. Nevertheless, I plunged into my 
carefully prepared maiden speech in behalf of birth control. Fortu- 
nately I had already planned to upbraid the doctors who daily saw 
the conditions which had so moved me and yet made it necessary for 
a person like myself, not equipped as they were, to stir up public 
opinion. It was like carrying coals to Newcastle; they should have 
been teaching me. 

I said I recognized that many of those before me of diverse out- 
looks and temperaments would support birth control propaganda 
if carried out in what they regarded as a safe and sane manner, 
although they did not countenance the methods I had been follow- 
ing in my attempt to arouse working women to the fact that having 
a child was a supreme responsibility. There was nothing new or 
radical in birth control, which Aristotle and Plato as well as many 
modern thinkers had demonstrated. But the ideas of wise men and 
scientists were sterile and did not affect the tremendous facts of 
life among the disinherited. All the while their discussions had 
been proceeding, the people themselves had been and still were 
blindly, desperately, practicing birth control by the most barbaric 
methods — infanticide, abortion, and other crude ways. I might have 
taken up a policy of safety, sanity, and conservatism — but would 
I have secured a hearing? Admittedly physicians and scientists had 
far more technical knowledge than I, but I had found myself in 
the position of one who had discovered a house was on fire and it 



HIGH HANGS THE GAUNTLET 1 89 

was up to me to shout out the warning. Afterwards others, more 
experienced in executive organization, could gather together and 
direct all the sympathy and interest which had been aroused. Only 
in this way could I be vindicated. 

Since my charge had forestalled his, the venerable Dr. Jacoby 
either had to answer me or shift his ground. He chose the latter 
course and talked -on the question of quality in population, which 
might perhaps have been construed as in my favor. 

Many of the women present were comfortable examples of the 
manner in which birth control could enable them to lead dignified 
lives. Elsie Clews Parsons made the suggestion that twenty-five who 
had practiced it should rise in court with me and plead guilty before 
the law. But only one volunteered. What surprised me most was 
the voice of Mary Ware Dennett announcing that she represented 
the National Birth Control League and that that body was going 
to stand behind Margaret Sanger in her ordeal — subscriptions were 
urgently needed for the League. 

(The next morning when I arrived at nine o'clock at the Federal 
Court building more than two hundred partisans were already in 
the corridors. A great corps of reporters and photographers was on 
hand. The stage had been set for an exciting drama. 

Judge Henry D. Clayton and Assistant District Attorneys Knox 
and Content arrived at ten-thirty, apparently feeling the effects of the 
publicity of the night before. 

The moment Knox moved to adjourn for a week I was on my feet 
asking immediate trial, but Judge Clayton postponed the case. 
Everybody went home disappointed.) 

February 18th the Government finally entered a nolle prosequi; 
Content explained there had been many assertions that the defend- 
ant was the victim of persecution, and that had never been the intent 
of the Federal authorities. "The case had been laid before the grand 
jurors as impartially as possible and since they had voted an indict- 
ment there was nothing that the District Attorney could do but 
prosecute. Now, however, as it was realized that the indictment was 
two years old, and that Mrs. Sanger was not a disorderly person and 
did not make a practice of publishing such articles, the Government 
had considered there was reason for considerable doubt." 



I9O MARGARET SANGER 

Well, when an army marches up the hill and then marches down 
again some good excuse must always be given. 

All my friends regarded the quashing of the Federal indictment 
a great achievement. There was much rejoicing and congratulation, 
but they acted as though they were saying, "Now settle down in 
your domestic corner, take your husband back, care for your chil- 
dren, behave yourself, and no more of this nonsense. Your duty is 
to do the thing you are able to do which is mind your home and not 
attempt something others can do better than you." 

But I was not content to have a Liberty Dinner and jubilate. I 
could not consider anything more than a moral victory had been 
attained. The law had not been tested. I agreed with the loyal Globe, 
which staunchly maintained, "If the matter Mrs. Sanger sent 
through the mails was obscene two years ago, it is still obscene." I 
knew and felt instinctively the danger of having a privilege under 
a law rather than a right. I could not yet afford to breathe a sigh 
of relief. 

The Federal law concerned only printed literature. My own 
pamphlet had given the impression that the printed word was the 
best way to inform women, but the practical course of contracep- 
tive technique I had taken in the Netherlands had shown me that 
one woman was so different from another in structure that each 
needed particular information applied to herself as an individual. 
Books and leaflets, therefore, should be of secondary importance. 
The public health way was through personal instruction in clinics. 

\A light had been kindled; so many invitations to address meet- 
ings in various cities and towns were sent me that I was not able 
to accept them all but agreed to as many as I could. It was no longer 
to be only a free speech movement, and I wanted also if possible to 
present this new idea of clinics to the country.. If I could start them, 
other organizations and even hospitals might do the same. I had a 
vision of a "chain" — thousands of them in every center of America, 
staffed with specialists putting the subject on a modern scientific basis 
through research. 

Many states in the West had already granted woman suffrage. 
Having achieved this type of freedom, I was sure they would re- 
ceive clinics more readily, especially California which had no law 



HIGH HANGS THE GAUNTLET 191 

against birth control. The same thing would follow in the East. As 
I told the Tribune ', "I have the word of four prominent physicians 
that they will support me in the work. . . . There will be nurses 
in attendance at the clinic, and doctors who will instruct women in 
the things they need to know. All married women or women about 
to be married will be assisted free and without question." 

A splendid promise — but difficult to fulfill, as events were to prove. 



Chapter Sixteen 



HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 



"Speak clearly if you speak at all. 
Carve every word before you let it fall: 

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES 



ONCE Amos Pinchot asked me how long it had taken me to 
prepare that first lecture I delivered on my three months' trip 
across the country in 191 6. 

'About fourteen years," I answered. 

I was thinking of all the time that had passed during which ex- 
periences, tragic and stirring, had come to me and were embodied 
therein. 

So much depended on this speech; the women of leisure must be 
made to listen, the women of wealth to give, the women of influence 
to protest. Before starting April 1st, I tried to put myself in their 
places and to see how their interests and imaginations could most ef- 
fectively be excited, how the pictures which had so unceasingly be- 
set me could best be brought to their minds. I felt certain that if I 
could do this, they would do the rest. 

But the anxiety that went into the composition of the speech was 
as nothing to the agonies with which I contemplated its utterance. 
My mother used to say a decent woman only had her name in the 
papers three times during her life — when she was born, when she 
married, and when she died. Although by nature I shrank from 
publicity, the kind of work I had undertaken did not allow me to 
shirk it — but I was frightened to death. Hoping that practice would 
give me greater confidence, I used to climb to the roof of the Lex- 
ington Avenue hotel where I was staying and recite, my voice go- 

192 



HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 1 93 

ing out over the house tops and echoing timidly among the chimney 
pots. 

I repeated the lecture over and over to myself before I tried it 
on a small audience in New Rochelle. I did not dare cut myself adrift 
from my notes; I had to read it, and when I had finished, did not 
feel it had been very successful. By the time I reached Pittsburgh, 
my first large city, I had memorized every period and comma, but 
I was still scared that if I lost one word I would not know what 
the next was. I closed my eyes and spoke in fear and trembling. The 
laborers and social workers who crowded the big theater responded 
so enthusiastically that I was at least sure their attention had been 
held by its content. 

It was interesting to watch the pencils come out at the announce- 
ment that there were specifically seven circumstances under which 
birth control should be practiced. 

First, when either husband or wife had a transmissible disease, 
such as epilepsy, insanity, or syphilis. • 

Second, when the wife suffered from a temporary affection of the 
lungs, heart, or kidneys, the cure of which might be retarded through 
pregnancy. . 

Third, when parents, though normal, had subnormal children. 

Fourth, when husband or wife were adolescent. Early marriage, 
yes, but parenthood should be postponed until after the twenty-third 
year of the boy and the twenty-second of the girl. 

Fifth, when the earning capacity of the father was inadequate; no 
man had the right to have ten children if he could not provide for 
more than two. The standards of living desirable had to be con- 
sidered; it was one thing if the parents were planning college edu- 
cations for their offspring, and another if they wanted them simply 
for industrial exploitation. 

Sixth, births should be spaced between two and three years, ac- 
cording to the mother's health. 

All the foregoing were self-evident from the physiological and 
economic points of view. But I wished to introduce a final reason 
which seemed equally important to me, though it had not been taken 
into account statistically. 

Seventh, every young couple should practice birth control for at 



194 MARGARET SANGER 

least one year after marriage and two as a rule, because this period 
should be one of physical, mental, financial, and spiritual adjustment 
in which they could grow together, cement the bonds of attraction, 
and plan for their children. 

Like other professions, motherhood should serve its apprentice- 
ship. It was not good sense to expect fruit from buds — yet if woman- 
hood flowered from girlhood too soon it did not have a chance to 
be a thing in itself. I offered a hypothetical case. Suppose two 
young people started out in marriage, ignorant of its implications 
and possibilities. The bride, utterly unprepared, returned pregnant 
from the honeymoon — headaches, nausea, backache, general fatigue, 
and depression. The romantic lover never knew that girl as a 
woman ; she forever after appeared to him only as a mother. Under 
such circumstances marriage seldom had an opportunity to become 
as fine an instrument for development as it might have been. 

I wanted the world made safe for babies. From a government sur- 
vey significant conclusions had emerged as to how many babies 
lived to celebrate their first birthday. These were based largely on 
three factors: the father's wage — as it went down, more died, and 
as it rose, more survived; the spacing of births — when children 
were born one year apart, more died than if the mother were al- 
lowed a two- or three-year interval between pregnancies; the rela- 
tive position in the family — of the number of second-born, thirty- 
two out of every hundred died annually, and so on progressively 
until among those who were born twelfth, the rate was sixty out 
of a hundred. 

I claimed that sympathy and charity extended towards babies 
were not enough, that milk stations were not enough, that maternity 
centers were not enough, and that protective legislation in the form 
of child labor laws was not enough. With all the force I could muster 
I insisted that the first right of a child was to be wanted, to be 
desired, to be planned for with an intensity of love that gave it its 
title to being. It should be wanted by both parents, but especially by 
the mother who was to carry it, nourish it, and perhaps influence its 
life by her thoughts, her passions, her rebellions, her yearnings. 

So that all babies born could be assured sound bodies and sound 
minds, I suggested in lighter vein that the Government issue pass- 



HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 1 95 

ports for them, calling the attention of the audience to the fact that 
adults in this country would never think of going abroad without a 
government guarantee to ensure them safe passage and preservation 
against harm or ill-treatment. If this were necessary for grown per- 
sons journeying into a foreign land, how much more important 
it was to protect children who were to enter into this strange and in- 
secure new world. 

I reminded them also that no one would consider embarking in the 
medical or legal profession without due preparation. Even cooks or 
laundresses scarcely applied for positions without experience prov- 
ing they were qualified to undertake their tasks. But anyone, no 
matter how ignorant, how diseased mentally or physically, how 
lacking in all knowledge of children, seemed to consider he or she 
had the right to become a parent. 

In the same tone I proposed a bureau of application for the un- 
born. I pictured a married couple coming here for a baby as though 
for a chambermaid, chauffeur, or gardener. The unborn child took 
a look at his prospective parents and propounded a few questions 
such as any employee has the right to ask of his employer. 

To his father the unborn child said, "Do you happen to have a 
health certificate?" 

And to the mother, "How are your nerves? What do you know 
about babies? What kind of a table do you set?" 

And to both of them, "What are your plans for bringing me up ? 
Am I to spend my childhood days in factories or mills, or am I to 
have the opportunities offered by an intelligent, healthy, family life ? 
I am unusually gifted," the baby might add. "Do you know how 
to develop my talents? What sort of society have you made for the 
fullest expression of my genius?" 

All babies came back to the practical question, "How many chil- 
dren have you already?" 

"Eight." 

"How much are you earning?" 

"Ten dollars a week." 

"And living in two rooms, you say? No, thank you. Next, please." 

I was trying to make people think in order that they might act. 
My part was to give them the facts and then, when they asked what 



196 MARGARET SANGER 

they should do about them, suggest concrete programs for leagues 
and clinics. Many women had far more executive and administra- 
tive experience than I, and I still expected them to carry on where 
I left off so that I might be free to return to Europe. 

My hopes seemed well-founded when many of the Pittsburgh 
audience waited afterward to request help in organizing themselves. 
Thus the first state birth control league was formed. This and all 
subsequent ones I referred to Mrs. Dennett's National Birth Con- 
trol League to be under its future direction., 

! That meeting had been held under the sponsorship of Mrs. Enoch 
Raugh, a philanthropist of great courage. In the early days almost 
everywhere I went'the subject of birth control was one likely to make 
conspicuous those who identified themselves with it. Average well- 
to-do persons hesitated except for the Jewish leaders in civic affairs, 
who, as soon as they were personally convinced, showed no reluctance 
in aligning themselves publicly:. 

Not so did Chicago respond. Some members of the powerful 
Women's City Club had privately asked me to speak, but when the 
matter was brought up before their board, the unofficial invitation 
was officially canceled. Here again were conservatives enjoying the 
benefits of birth control for themselves but unwilling to endorse 
it for the less fortunate of their sex. When they did not listen, I 
tried to reach the women of the stockyards directly. 

So many hundreds of letters had come to me — not only in Eng- 
lish, but also in Hungarian, Bohemian, Polish, and Yiddish — clam- 
oring for information, that I had every reason to suppose what I 
had to say was going to be welcome on Halsted Street. I was in- 
credulous when I met an unforeseen resistance. 

Hull House and similar settlements had been established to help 
the poor to help themselves. But I found that although social 
agencies had originally striven to win confidence by opening milk 
stations and day nurseries, this aim had been somewhat obscured 
in the interests of sheer efficiency. Many welfare workers had come 
to treat individuals merely as cases to be cataloged, arrogantly pro- 
claiming they knew "what was best for the poor"; a type had de- 
veloped, and those who belonged to it were lacking in human sym- 
pathy. Instead they expanded their own egos through domination. 



HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 1 97 

Their desire to build up prestige and secure a position of importance 
in the community had formed a civic barrier, a wall, in fact, around 
the stockyards district, preventing any new concepts, people, or or- 
ganizations from coming in without official permission. The stock- 
yards women were literally imprisoned in their homes from ad- 
vanced ideas unless they went out into other sections of the city. 

Because this ridiculous situation had arisen in Chicago, no hall 
could be had in the immediate neighborhood. , I could have held no 
meeting there had it not been for Fania Mindell, one of the many 
idealists of that time who threw themselves into the fight for the 
oppressed as an aftermath of their own sufferings and repressions 
in Russia. ,She had a devoted and self-sacrificing nature which made 
her work, slave, toil for the love of doing it. She made all the ar- 
rangements, producing an audience of fifteen hundred from the 
labor and stockyards environs. 

i These first lectures in Chicago and elsewhere attracted women in 
swarms, paying their twenty-five cents to fill the auditoriums; I 
remember that one offered her wedding ring as the price of admis- 
sion, to be redeemed on pay day. They brought their children, and 
more than once I had to lift my voice above the persistent cooing 
and gurgling of a front-row baby. There was a natural understand- 
ing between infants. If one were given a bottle, another began to 
cry. A third in the backjoined the chorus, or a small boy on the side 
aisle whispered shrilly, "I wantta go home!" I just ached to see those 
many babies, because I knew what their mothers had come for — 
definite help to stop having more — and it could not be given them. 

Often at these meetings I saw some woman sitting down near 
the platform holding a bunch of wild flowers, daisies, Queen Anne's 
lace, or butter-and-eggs, waiting to present me with the little bouquet, 
to tell me that since she had received my pamphlet, she had "kept out 
of trouble." No matter how phrased, the gratitude was genuine. 

Over and over again someone popped up in front of me, and ex- 
tended a hand, "I used to subscribe to the Woman Rebel. I got all 
your pamphlets from England." 

When I asked, "What's your name?" with the answer, like a flash, 
came the number of children and the locality, and the story sent me 
years earlier. And, "Didn't you live in Des Moines?" I continued. 



I98 MARGARET SANGER 

Seldom was it the wrong place. In this way I came across dozens 
of "friends" who had been among the original two thousand. 

I was advised by Dr. Mabel Ullrich of Minneapolis not to go 
there because the Twin Cities were the most conservative in Amer- 
ica. "You won't get six people," she prophesied. 

"Do you think I'll get six?" 

"Perhaps." 
/"Then I'll go." 

nI was prepared to speak wherever it was possible, regardless of 
attendance. Six people, properly convinced, usually made sixty peo- 
ple think before very long. In spite of Dr. Ullrich's warning, hun- 
dreds of chairs had to be brought in to the Minneapolis Public Li- 
brary to take care of the overflow. 

People were frequently surprised at the size of my audiences. I 
should have been surprised had it been the other way about, al- 
though I did not like too many present because the subject was too 
intimate for great numbers in large halls. All came because birth 
control touched their lives deeply and vitally ; they listened so earnestly, 
so intently that the very atmosphere was hushed and unnaturally 
quiet. 

Here in Minneapolis arrived a telegram from Frederick A. 
Blossom, Ph.D., manager of the Associated Charities of Cleveland, 
whom I had met there. Would I speak at the National Social Work- 
ers' Conference then being held in Indianapolis? He could not get 
me placed on the program, but the two subjects that were currently 
arousing considerable interest were the prison reforms instituted 
by Thomas Mott Osborne at Sing Sing, and birth control. He 
believed it was worth my while to come. 

Since I had nearly a week before my scheduled meeting in St. 
Louis, the time fitted in very nicely and I seized the occasion. I did 
not expect definite action, but I did yearn to arouse dissatisfaction 
over smoothing off the top, to say to these social workers plodding 
along in their organizations that I thought their accomplishments 
were temporary, and that charity was only a feather duster flicking 
from the surface particles which merely settled somewhere else. 
They could never attain their ideal of eliminating the problems of 



HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 1 99 

the masses until the breeding of the unending stream of unwanted 
babies was stopped. 

Blossom, polished, educated, and clever, had a charming and 
disarming personality, and an ability far above the average. Part 
of his work had been to cultivate the rich, and in this he had been 
eminently success fut because he was so suave, never waving a red 
flag in front of anybody's nose as I did; my flaming Feminism 
speeches had scared some of my supporters out of their wits. 

This master manager knew exactly what to do and how to go 
about it. Notices were posted throughout the hotel and left in every 
delegate's mail box, announcing the meeting for four in the after- 
noon, the only hour when we could have the big amphitheater. Al- 
though round-table discussions were going on at the same time, it 
was jammed to the doors; people were sitting on the platform and 
on window sills and radiators. 

I was almost startled that so many of those from whom I hoped 
for co-operation should turn out in such numbers. Walter Lippmann 
said, "This will kick the football of birth control straight across 
to the Pacific." And, indeed, the social agents, like the plumed 
darts of a seeded dandelion puffed into the air, scattered to every 
quarter of the country; thereafter, to the West and back again, I 
heard echoes of the meeting. 

During the previous weeks in various cities it had been hard to 
be alone a minute. Women with the inevitable babies kept calling 
on me in hotels and so did men setting out to their jobs early in 
the morning, carrying their lunch boxes. I was so mentally weary 
with strain that it seemed I must get away from humanity for a 
little while if I were to retain my sanity. Worst of all was the 
ever-present loneliness and grief — the apparition of Peggy who 
wanted me to recognize she had gone and was no longer here. 

I slipped into St. Louis two days ahead so that I could be by 
myself, registering at the Hotel Jefferson and asking not to be dis- 
turbed. But the telephone rang before I even had my suitcase un- 
packed; a reporter had seen my name at the desk and requested an 
interview. I replied I could not give it ; I was not in St. Louis so far 
as he was concerned. Saying to myself, "Good, I've escaped that," 



200 MARGARET SANGER 

I went to bed. But next morning a ribbon on the front page of his 
paper announced I was "hiding" in the city. In my ignorance I had 
violated the etiquette observed by welcoming committees, and mine 
was highly indignant. I had little rest. 

Among the group of backers was Robert Minor, an old friend, 
formerly an outstanding cartoonist on the New York World, who 
had been dropped because he had refused to draw the kind of pic- 
tures about Germany his employers wanted. It had been arranged 
that I was to have the Victoria Theater Sunday night, which had 
already been paid for in advance so that the meeting could be free. 
However, at a quarter to eight when we arrived, the building was 
in total darkness and the doors were locked. The proprietor's office 
was closed; he was not at home; there was no means of finding 
out anything. Actually, he had temporarily effaced himself because 
he did not wish to admit that he had been threatened with a Catholic 
boycott of his theater, and had been promised protection against a 
possible suit for breach of contract. 

At least two thousand people had gathered and were filling the 
air with catcalls, hisses, hurrahs, cries of "the Catholics run the 
town! Break in the door!" Minor urged me to stand up in the car 
and give my speech, but without its proper setting I was lost; here 
was a type of battle needing an experienced campaigner. Although I 
did not feel adequate, I began, but my voice could not surmount 
the uproar. 

I was barely under way when a police sergeant reached up and 
seized my arm. "Here now, you'll have to come down. You can't 
talk here." 

"Speech ! Speech !" yelled the crowd. "Go on." 

But the owner of the car, to my great relief, started his engine. 
I sat back in the seat with a thump and off we went. 

The incident had repercussions. The Men's City Club, regarding 
the event as a blot on the fair name of the town, asked me to speak 
at their luncheon the next day, and I promised to wait over. Al- 
though forty Catholics then resigned in a body, St. Louis would not 
be coerced, and more than a hundred new members joined immedi- 
ately. 

William Marion Reedy, owner and publisher of the famous 



HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 201 

Reedy 's Mirror, had been at the closed theater. He printed a car- 
toon showing the Capitol of the United States with a papal crown 
on it, stated editorially that the Pope was now dictating to America 
what it should hear and think, and emphasized the consequent dan- 
gers to the country if any religious group were allowed such domina- 
tion. "No idea let loose in the world has ever been suppressed. Ideas 
cannot be jailed in oubliettes/' was his peroration. 

After I had left the Middle West and reached the Rocky Moun- 
tains the atmosphere changed. I was struck even by the attitude of 
the bellboys and waiters at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. In 
New York you were served by trained foreign men and boys — 
Italian and French. Here they were American-born, blue-eyed, fair- 
complexioned, strong- jawed. Without bowing or obsequiousness 
they brought your food and carried your bags as if doing you a 
favor. You hesitated to give them a tip, though, as a matter of fact, 
they never refused it. 

I loved Denver itself. It seemed to me the women there were the 
most beautiful I had seen — fresh, charming, alive. They had long had 
the vote and used it effectively. Because they believed in Judge Ben 
Lindsey's juvenile court, they had kept him in office in spite of 
the concerted antagonism of picturesque but corrupt politicians. 

Although Judge Lindsey had bitter enemies in exalted places, he 
had loyal friends also. When Theodore Roosevelt had stopped there 
in 1 91 2 on his Western Swing, the Judge was facing opposition. 
The city fathers did not want to include him as a substantial citizen 
on their platform committee of welcome. Roosevelt peered vainly 
about among all these bankers and business men. "Where's Ben 
Lindsey?" he asked. 

"We don't talk about him around here." 

"Don't we? Well, he's a friend of mine. I shan't say a word until 
Ben Lindsey comes and sits on this platform beside me." 

Nor would he speak until Lindsey arrived ; everybody had to wait. 

It was a high point for me at this time, so soon after my own 
court appearance, to have Judge Lindsey preside at my meeting. For- 
merly my listeners, with the exception of Indianapolis, had been 
chiefly of the working class. Here they were wives of doctors, law- 
yers, petty officials, members of clubs. 



202 MARGARET SANGER 

I was more than delighted to have an audience which had the 
power to change public opinion. The "submerged tenth" had no need 
of theories nor the proof of the advantages of family limitation; 
they were the proof — the living example of the need. It was vitally 
important to have reflective hearers who not only themselves used 
contraceptives, but who advanced thought through literature, dis- 
cussions, and papers. To them I was telling the story of those mil- 
lions who could not come, and trying to relate it as I knew it to be 
true. Stimulating them offered the best possibility of getting some- 
thing done. 

Judge Lindsey invited me to sit on the bench with him the next 
morning, and I watched enthralled the way he handled his cases. 
The familiar court method was punishment, and the more punish- 
ment the better. But he operated on the new psychology. For in- 
stance, he attempted to inculcate a sense of responsibility in one boy 
who had disobeyed his mother and run away from school, by show- 
ing him his indebtedness to her, how he should be helping rather than 
causing her grief. 

The same tactics were employed in the case of Joseph, charged 
with assault on his wife, Nelly, who stood silently in the back- 
ground, shawl over her head. Lindsey read the evidence, then said, 
"Joseph, come over here." 

'Joseph stepped nearer, appearing somewhat guilty, as men of his 
status usually did when they came into court. 

"What's this I hear about you? Why did you strike Nelly?" 

"She made me mad," Joseph mumbled. 

"Joseph, turn your head and look at your wife. Look at her! 
Look! — thin, pale, weak, and you a big strong man striking that 
delicate little woman. Aren't you ashamed of yourself to beat Nelly? 
You who promised to love, honor, and protect her?" 

The reprimanding lasted fully two minutes. Finally tears began 
to spring from Nelly's eyes and to run down her face. She moved 
forward, took Joseph by the hand, and said, "Oh, he's not so bad, 
Judge." Joseph then embraced her. Instead of punishing him, which 
would in effect have also been punishing Nelly, Judge Lindsey put 
him on parole to report back in two months' time, and husband and 
wife went out arm in arm. 



HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 203 

One of the hardest things for a judge in a lower court to combat 
is the prejudice of the police against those who already have records. 
Judge Lindsey, when a case came up before him, never took the 
word of the ward heelers, but had his own secretary, employed and 
paid by him, go to the home and investigate, and he held the case 
until this had been done. But I thought then that either Judge Lind- 
sey was heading straight for trouble, or Denver had a kingdom of 
its own where freedom reigned. 

A similar attitude of liberality prevailed on the far side of the 
Rockies. In many places where I had previously spoken, policemen 
had been stationed at the doors. Occasionally they had even come 
to the hotel to read my speech, as at St. Louis and Indianapolis. But 
in Los Angeles officials of all the city, even the representatives of 
the women's police division, met me at the station or called on me 
in a friendly way. 

I was still as terrified of speaking as in the beginning; I used to 
wake up early in the morning, sometimes before it was light, and 
feel a ghastly depression coming over me. I realized it was the im- 
pending lecture which was so affecting me, and I waited in trepida- 
tion for the hour. My physical illness did not grow better until I 
was on my feet and well into my subject. 

Though this was my first visit to the West, I had no time for 
scenery. Whenever possible I traveled by night and arrived during 
the day, and by this stage of my trip I was seemingly always tired. 
The dead grind went on and on, an endless succession of getting off 
trains, introductions, talking to committees, pouring yourself out — 
and nothing happening. Physically and psychically it was one of the 
lowest periods of my life. 

Someone in San Francisco did a lovely thing for me. I never 
knew who she was, but at the end of one meeting she picked me up 
in her car and swept me away into a forest of huge, tall trees where 
the sun broke through. There she left me for fifteen minutes in the 
midst of a cathedral of great evergreens with the sky overhead 
and myself alone. I have never forgotten the peace and quiet. 

I found the West Coast a lively place. Ideas were being con- 
stantly thrashed out. Every discourse had a challenging reception. 
Emma Goldman had been there year after year and had stirred peo- 



204 MARGARET SANGER 

pie to dare express themselves. All sorts of individuals catechized 
you, and if you were not well grounded in your subject you were 
quickly made aware of your ignorance. The Wobblies spent hours 
in libraries, not only keeping warm, but trying to find points on 
which to attack the next lecturer who should come to town. Often 
those most eager were considered cranks — on diet, free trade, single 
tax, and free silver — so familiar that their rising was hailed with 
groans. I never minded having questions asked, though everything 
I knew was questioned. It was as well for me that, in addition to 
my Malthus, I knew my Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, my Henry 
George, Marx, and Kropotkin. It seems to me that today the tone 
of audiences has deteriorated; queries rarely have the same intel- 
lectual grasp behind them. 

. My welcome at Portland was delightful. The sixty-year-old poet, 
C. E. S. Wood, dapper and gracious, made a practice of greet- 
ing personally women speakers, dedicating poems to them on their 
arrival, and sending bowers of flowers to their hotel rooms. The 
City of Roses did much to entertain its visitors. 

Here I was invited by a church to address its congregation fol- 
lowing the evening service. I had not been very well in the after- 
noon, but I promised over the telephone to be there if I could. I 
was late and the meeting had already begun. As I slipped in at the 
rear I heard the chairman refer to me as a Joan of Arc. Entirely 
too many Joans of Arc were floating about in those days. Not wish- 
ing to be a disappointment I turned right around and walked back 
to the hotel. Since no one had ever seen me, both my entrance and 
exit went unremarked. 

I admired robust, vital women; they appeared so efficient, and I 
regretted the fact that I did not give the same impression. I felt 
that way, but could not help resembling, as someone phrased it, "a 
hungry flower drooping in the rain." If I were in a room with 
ten people and somebody came in who expected me to be present, 
she invariably approached the biggest woman and addressed her, 
"How do you do, Mrs. Sanger?" For a brief while I tried to make 
myself seem more competent-looking by wearing severe suits, but 
this phase did not last ; for one thing, effective simplicity cost money 
and I did not have enough to be really well-tailored. However, the 



HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 205 

anonymity due to my appearance was, on the whole, fortunate. I 
was always able to go along any street, into any restaurant or shop, 
and seldom be identified, and this made it possible for me to main- 
tain a relatively private life. 

A dinner was given at Portland; the chairman, who had seen 
Susan B. Anthony and many other women with causes come and 
go, made a short speech of introduction. I rarely remember what 
people say on such occasions, but one of her statements has remained 
in my mind. "I would like to see Margaret Sanger again after ten 
years. Most movements either break you or develop the 'public 
figure' type of face which has become hard and set through long 
and furious battling. But her cause is different from any other I 
have ever known. I should like to see how she comes out of it." 

I have thought of this many times — how, if the cause is not great 
enough to lift you outside yourself, you can be driven to the point 
of bitterness by public apathy and, within your own circle, by the 
petty prides and jealousies of little egos which clamor for attention 
and approbation. 

One of the first persons I met in the city was Dr. Marie Equi, of 
Italian ancestry and Latin fire. Definitely, she was an individualist 
and a rugged one. Her strong, large body could stand miles and 
miles on horseback night or day. She had been brought up in the 
pioneer era when medical work was genuine service. If cowboys or 
Indians were in fights, difficulties, jail, Dr. Equi was always on 
hand to speak a good word for them. 

[ It was in Portland that I realized Family Limitation, which had 
been crudely and hurriedly written in 1914, needed revising. The 
working women to whom it was addressed needed the facts. It had 
served its purpose in its unpolished state, but the time had now come 
to reach the middle classes, for whom it required a slightly more pro- 
fessional tone. Dr. Equi gave me genuine assistance in this matter. 

The wider the distribution of the pamphlet, the happier I was. 
Since it had not been copyrighted, anybody who wanted to could 
reprint as many as he wished, and I.W.W. lumberjacks, for ex- 
ample, transients without families who moved to California for the 
crop harvesting in the summer, often thus provided themselves with 
a little extra money as they journeyed from place to place. When 



206 MARGARET SANGER 

they unrolled the blankets draped over their shoulders out dropped 
a half-dozen or so pamphlets. 

An automobile mechanic of Portland had made one of these re- 
prints and asked me whether he could sell it at my next meeting. 
I myself had never distributed Family Limitation publicly, but if 
any local people wanted to do so, I had no objection. Accordingly the 
mechanic and two of his friends sold copies and were arrested. Their 
trial was postponed so that I could deliver my proposed lectures 
in Seattle and Spokane. 

When these were over I came back to serve as a witness, and at 
another meeting held the night preceding the trial four more of 
us were arrested, Dr. Equi, two Englishwomen, and myself. I was 
tremendously gratified by seeing women for the first time come out 
openly with courage ; over a hundred followed us through the streets 
to the jail asking to be "let in too. We also have broken the law." 

The city jail was nice and clean and warm. The girls, who were 
not locked in cells, scampered around talking over their troubles and 
complaints with Dr. Equi, and receiving condolence and wholesome 
advice in return. 

The seven of us were tried together the next day. Two lawyers 
took upon themselves the responsibility of defending us, and they 
were splendid. We were all found guilty. The men were fined ten 
dollars, which the Judge said they need not pay ; the women were not 
fined at all. 

The papers made a great to-do about the affair but it was not a 
type of /publicity of my choosing and did little to bring the goal 
nearer. \The year 191 6 was filled with such turmoil, some of it use- 
ful, some not. , The ferment was working violently. Everybody be- 
gan starting things here and there. Many radicals, some of whom 
I did not even know, were distributing leaflets, getting themselves 
arrested and jailed. Meetings were being held in New York on street 
corners, at Union Square, Madison Square. 

You had to keep a steady head, to be about your business, to make 
careful decisions, to waste the least possible time on trivialities; it 
was always a problem to prevent emotional scatter-brains from dis- 
turbing the clear flow of the stream. The public, quite naturally, 



HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 207 

could not be expected to distinguish between purposeful activities 
and any others carried on in the name of the movement. 

Emma Goldman and her campaign manager, Ben Reitman, be- 
latedly advocated birth control, not to further it but strategically to 
utilize in their own program of anarchism the publicity value it 
had achieved. Earlier she had made me feel she considered it unim- 
portant in the class struggle. Suddenly, when in 1916 it had demon- 
strated the fact that it was important, she delivered a lecture on the 
subject, was arrested, and sentenced to ten days. 

Ben Reitman, who used to go up and down the aisles at meetings 
shouting out Emma "Goldman's Mother Earth in a voice that never 
needed a megaphone, was also arrested when the police found on 
the table of her lecture hall in Rochester several books on birth 
control. One of these was by Dr. Robinson, who had hastily pub- 
lished a volume purporting to give contraceptive information. The 
unwary purchaser discovered when he came to the section supposed 
to give him the facts for which he had paid his money that the pages 
were blank and empty. 

( Of far greater interest to me was the decision of Jessie Ashley, 
Ida Rauh, who was Max Eastman's wife, and Bolton Hall, a leader 
in the single tax movement, to make test cases on the grounds that 
the denial of contraceptive information to women whose health 
might be endangered by pregnancy was unconstitutional since the 
Constitution guaranteed each individual the right to liberty.) These 
three had themselves arrested on birth control charges. They were 
all three convicted and given a choice of fines or terms in prison. 
They paid the former, announcing that they would appeal, but, most 
unfortunately, as it turned out later, they did not carry through their 
intentions. 

A sympathetic thing if not a wise one was being done by a young 
man in Boston named Van Kleek Allison, who started handing out 
leaflets to workers as they emerged from factories. Early in the 
summer he gave one to a police decoy, was arrested and sentenced 
to three years. Dear old Boston, the home of the Puritan, rose in 
all its strength and held a huge meeting of protest on his behalf. 

This was the occasion of my first heckling. A Jewish convert to 



208 MARGARET SANGER 

Catholicism, named Goldstein, began belligerently to fling questions 
at me. It was not in the sense of trying to find out the answers, 
but as though he had them wrapped up in his own pocket and were 
merely trying to trap me, and he, in turn, had his answers ready 
for mine. But after my Western experiences I was not unprepared 
and was aided, furthermore, by other members of the audience who 
spoke in my defense when he became almost insulting. 

I never made light of questioners and never judged any question 
too trivial or unworthy of an honest response. I believed that for 
each person who had the courage to ask there must be at least 
twenty-five who would like to know, and I have never assumed any- 
one was seeking to trick me into giving illegal information, even 
though his inquiry might appear as intended to confuse me or be 
vindictively thrust at me. I usually replied, "That's an interesting 
point. I'm glad you raised it," and then proceeded to discuss it as 
best I could. 

Another heckling in Albany resulted in a joyous reunion. Some- 
body in the audience insisted my work was unnecessary. I would 
ordinarily have paid no attention, not considering the statement at 
all personal. But there arose a lady, wearing a high lace collar 
propped up with whalebones, and a hat that sat flat on her head, a 
ghost out of my school-girl days. "I am acquainted with Margaret 
Sanger," she stated. "I have slept with her, I have lived with her, I 
have worked with her, I have delivered her, and I have named my 
baby for her." Here was dear old Amelia come to champion me. Her 
type of dress had remained the same as fifteen years before, but so 
had her loyalty and wit. The lecture over, we went back together to 
her home in Schenectady; she hauled out from the attic scrapbooks 
and photographs and snapshots taken at Claverack, and we sat on 
the floor and rocked with laughter until three in the morning. 

When I returned to New York after my long trip I took a studio 
apartment in what seemed like a bit of old Chelsea on Fourteenth 
Street way over between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Gertrude 
Boyle, the sculptress, had the one below me, and my sister Ethel moved 
in above. Occasionally father came down from Cape Cod to spend 
some time with us. 

Although it was never quite warm enough, because it lacked cen- 



HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 209 

tral heating, it hardened me physically, and the open fireplaces, 
stoked incessantly by expansive and voluble Vito Silecchia, the Ital- 
ian coal vendor, kept the air fresh and clean. The lovely high ceil- 
ings, the tall windows, and the broad doors flung wide between the 
rooms, gave an atmosphere of space, and the marvelous carved wood- 
work was a joy. The windows in the rear were draped with light 
yellow curtains, reflecting an illusory glow of sunshine. Above one 
of these grew a Japanese wistaria vine ; whenever I looked up I saw 
this little bit of spring. 



Chapter Seventeen 



FAITH I HAVE BEEN A TRUANT IN THE LAW 



"// a woman grows weary and at last dies from childbearing, it 
matters not. Let her only die from bearing; she is there to do it." 

MARTIN LUTHER 



IN the fall of 191 6 whoever walked along the corridor of the top 
floor of 104 Fifth Avenue could have seen the words "Birth 
Control" printed on the door leading to an office equipped in 
business-like, efficient manner with files and card catalogs. Pre- 
siding over it was Fred Blossom, the perfect representative. He had 
told me at Cleveland he was tired of ameliorative charity and, want- 
ing to do something more significant, had offered six months 
for this work. Now indefatigably he wrote, spoke, made friends, 
and, most important, raised money. His meals were limited to an 
apple for luncheon and a sandwich for dinner; he seldom left the 
office until midnight. 

Like a vacuum cleaner Blossom sucked in volunteers from near 
and far to help with the boxes and trunks of letters which had come 
to me from all over the country — one thousand from St. Louis alone. 
As long as I had had no stenographic aid I had been able only to 
open and read them and put them sadly away. At last with fifteen 
or twenty assistants the task began of sorting these out and answer- 
ing them. The contents almost invariably fell into certain definite cate- 
gories, and I instituted a system so that such and such a paragraph 
could be sent in response to such and such an appeal. 

We had only one paid stenographer — little Anna Lifshiz, who 
soon became far more a co-worker than a secretary. If we had no 
money in the bank she waited for her salary until we did. When I met 

210 



FAITH I HAVE BEEN A TRUANT IN THE LAW 211 

Anna's mother, who graced her hospitable home with an old world 
dignity, I realized that her daughter's fine character had been directly- 
inherited. Every Christmas I used to receive a present of wine and 
cakes of Mrs. Lifshiz' own make, and Anna always said when she 
brought them, "My mother pr,ays for your health, your happiness, 
and that you will keep well." ' ' * 

I had been encouraged by the interest aroused during my Western 
trip, but was by no means satisfied. The practical idea of giving 
contraceptive information in clinics set up for that purpose had 
seemed to meet general approval everywhere. Boston at this time 
appeared a possible place to begin. Though Allison had to serve 
sixty days in the House of Correction at Deer Island, the sum total 
of his sensational trial had been good. Before his arrest there had 
been no league in Massachusetts, and with his arrest had come 
publicity, friends, workers, meetings, letters, interviews, all of wide- 
spread educational value. 

More important than the enthusiasm which had been stirred up, 
the best legal authorities in Boston had decided that contraceptive 
information could be given verbally by doctors as long as it was not 
advertised. The interpretation to be put on advertising held up the 
actual opening of a clinic. The old spirit was there to wage battle 
but it was a question of getting leadership, and this did not come 
about; no women doctors were willing to take the risk. If the citi- 
zens of Massachusetts had then seized the opportunity to broaden 
their laws, writers and speakers might now have more freedom in 
expressing themselves. 

Blossom soon organized the New York State Birth Control 
League to change the state law. Beyond introducing a bill it made 
little headway and soon expired. It was just one of those many 
groups that met and talked and talked and did nothing effective. 

The legislative approach seemed to me a slow and tortuous method 
of making clinics legal; we stood a better and quicker chance by 
securing a favorable judicial interpretation through challenging the 
law directly. I decided to open a clinic in New York City, a far more 
difficult proceeding than in Boston., Section 1142 of the New York 
statutes was definite: No one could give contraceptive information 
to anyone for any reason. On the other hand, Section 1145 dis- 



212 MARGARET SANGER 

tinctly stated that physicians could give prescriptions to prevent con- 
ception for the cure or prevention of disease. Two attorneys and 
several doctors assured me this exception referred only to venereal 
disease. In that case, the intent was to protect the man, which could 
incidentally promote immorality and permit promiscuity. I was deal- 
ing with marriage. I wanted the interpretation to be broadened into 
the intent to protect women from ill health as the result of excessive 
childbearing and, equally important, to have the right to control their 
own destinies. 

To change this interpretation it was necessary to have a test case. 
This, in turn, required my keeping strictly to the letter of the y law; 
that is, having physicians who would give only verbal information 
for the prevention of disease. But the women doctors who had pre- 
viously promised to do this now refused. I wrote, telephoned, asked 
friends to ask other friends to help find someone. None was will- 
ing to enter the cause, fearful of jeopardizing her private practice 
and of running the risk of being censured by her profession; she 
might even lose her license. 

They had before them the example of Dr. Mary Halton who of 
all the women I have known has perhaps the best understanding of 
the hidden secrets of the heart. She has never reached her deserts, 
and doubtless never will have the honors due her, though she has an 
unknown audience who love her not only because she has done some- 
thing directly for them but because they have heard of what she 
has done for others. She has what to my mind is the attitude of the 
real physician; that it is not enough merely to cure ailments — sur- 
roundings, heartaches, privations must also be given attention. Her 
office is a human welfare clinic to which women of all classes, ages, 
nationalities go for advice, occasionally without even return car- 
fare. The unmarried ones, who in asking help from doctors or clinics 
seldom admit they are unmarried, trust so deeply in Dr. Mary that 
they unburden themselves freely. 

Dr. Mary had previously been on the staff of the Grosvenor Hos- 
pital and had held her evening clinic there. To one of her patients 
who had been operated on for glandular tuberculosis she had pre- 
scribed a cervical pessary. When a few evenings later the woman 



FAITH I HAVE BEEN A TRUANT IN THE LAW 213 

had come back to be refitted, Dr. Mary had been out and her substi- 
tute, horrified and shocked, had presented the matter to the board. 
Dr. Mary had been called before them. She had told them in no un- 
certain terms that the giving of contraceptive information to patients 
in need of it was part of her work and that she had a right under 
the law to do so. 

The board had disagreed with her and asked for her resignation. 

I did not wish to complicate the quesion of testing the law by 
having a nurse give information, because a nurse did not come un- 
der the Section 1145 exception. But since I could find no doctor I 
had to do without. Ethel, a registered nurse, had a readiness to 
share in helping the movement, though she did not belong to it in 
the same sense as I. Then, as long as I had to violate the law any- 
how, I concluded I might as well violate it on a grand scale by in- 
cluding poverty as a reason for giving contraceptive information. I 
did not see why the hardships and worries of a working man's wife 
might not be just as detrimental as any disease. I wanted a legal 
opinion on this if possible. 

My next problems were where the money was to come from and 
where the clinic was to be. Ever since I had announced that I was 
going to open one within a few months I had been buried under an 
avalanche of queries as to the place, which for a time I could not 
answer. The selection of a suitable locality was of the greatest im- 
portance. I tramped through the streets of the Bronx, Brooklyn, 
the lower sides of Manhattan, East and West. I scrutinized the 
Board of Health vital statistics of all the boroughs — births and in- 
fant and maternal mortality in relation to low wages, and also the 
number of philanthropic institutions in the vicinity. 

The two questions — where and how — were settled on one and the 
same day. 

That afternoon five women from the Brownsville Section of 
Brooklyn crowded into my room seeking the "secret" of birth con- 
trol. Each had four children or more, who had been left with neigh- 
bors. One had just recovered from an abortion which had nearly 
killed her. "Another will take me off. Then what will become of my 
family?" 



214 MARGARET SANGER 

They rocked back and forth as they related their afflictions, told 
so simply, each scarcely able to let her friend finish before she took 
up the narration of her own sufferings — the high cost of food, her 
husband's meager income when he worked at all, her helplessness in 
the struggle to make ends meet, whining, sickly children, the con- 
stant worry of another baby — and always hanging over her night 
and day, year after year, was fear. 

All cried what a blessing and godsend a clinic would be in their 
neighborhood. 

They talked an hour and when they had finished, it seemed as 
though I myself had been through their tragedies. I was reminded 
of the story of a Spaniard who had become so desperate over the 
injustice meted out to innocent prisoners that he had taken a re- 
volver into the street and fired it at the first person he met; killing 
was his only way of expressing indignation. I felt like doing the 
same thing. 

I decided then and there that the clinic should open at Browns- 
ville, and I would look for a site the next day. How to finance it I 
did not know, but that did not matter. 

Then suddenly the telephone rang and I heard a feminine voice 
saying she had just come from the West Coast bringing from Kate 
Crane Gartz, whom I had met in Los Angeles, a check for fifty dollars 
to do with as I wished. I knew what I should do with it ; pay the first 
month's rent. I visualized two rooms on the ground floor, one for 
waiting and one for consultation, and a place outside to leave the 
baby carriages. 

Fania Mindell had left Chicago to assist me in New York. It was 
a terribly rainy day in early October that we plodded through the 
dreary streets of Brownsville to find the most suitable spot at the 
cheapest possible terms. We stopped in one of the milk stations to 
inquire about vacant stores. "Don't come over here," was the reply. 
Many social organizations were being established to meet the de- 
mands of poverty and sickness, and we asked of them all, only to 
receive the same response — "We don't want any trouble. Keep out 
of this district." The mildest comment was, "It's a good idea, but 
we can't help you." Although they agreed the mothers of the com- 
munity should limit their families, they seemed terrified at the pros-* 



FAITH I HAVE BEEN A TRUANT IN THE LAW 21 5 

pect of a birth control clinic. It sounded also as if they were afraid 
we would do away with" social problems and they would lose their 
jobs. 

Brownsville was not unique ; Brooklyn was and still is dotted with 
such dismal villages, and even Queens with its pretensions to a 
higher standard has its share. But Brownsville was particularly 
dingy and squalid. Block after block, street after street, as far as 
we could see in every direction stretched the same endless lines of 
cramped, unpainted houses that crouched together as though for 
warmth, bursting with excess of wretched humanity. 

The inhabitants were mostly Jews and Italians, some who had 
come to this country as children, some of the second generation. I 
preferred a Jewish landlord, and Mr. Rabinowitz was the answer. 
He was willing to let us have Number 46 Amboy Street at fifty 
dollars a month, a reduction from the regular rent because he real- 
ized what we were trying to do. Here in this Jewish community I 
need have no misgivings over breaking of windows or hurling of 
epithets, but I was scarcely prepared for the friendliness offered 
from that day on. 

I sent a letter to the District Attorney of Brooklyn, saying I ex- 
pected to dispense contraceptive information from this address. 
Without waiting for the reply, which never came, we began the 
fun of fixing up our little clinic. We had to keep furnishing expenses 
inside the budget, but Fania knew Yiddish and also how to bargain. 
We bought chairs, desks, floor coverings, curtains, a stove. If I were 
to leave no loophole in testing the law, we could only give the prin- 
ciples of contraception, show a cervical pessary to the women, ex- 
plain that if they had had two children they should have one size 
and if more a larger one. This was not at all ideal, but I had no other 
recourse at the time. However, we might be able to get a doctor any 
day and, consequently, we added an examination table to our equip- 
ment. 

Mr. Rabinowitz spent hours adding touches here and there to 
make the two shiny and spotless rooms even more snow-white. 
"More hospital looking," he said. 

Meanwhile we had printed about five thousand notices in English, 
Italian, and Yiddish : 



2l6 MARGARET SANGER 

MOTHERS! 

Can you afford to have a large family? 

Do you want any more children? 

If not, why do you have them? 

DO NOT KILL, DO NOT TAKE LIFE, BUT PREVENT 

Safe, Harmless Information can be obtained of trained Nurses at 

46 AMBOY STREET 

NEAR PITKIN AVE.— BROOKLYN. 

Tell Your Friends and Neighbors. All Mothers Welcome 

A registration fee of 10 cents entitles any mother to this information. 

These we poked into letter boxes, house after house, day after 
day, upstairs, downstairs, all over the place, viewing sadly the un- 
kempt children who swarmed in the alleyways and over the fire es- 
capes of the condemned tenements and played on the rubbish heaps 
in the vacant lots. Seldom did we see a woman who was not carry- 
ing or wheeling a baby. We stopped to talk to each and gave her a 
supply of leaflets to hand on to her neighbors. When we passed by 
a drugstore we arranged with the proprietor to prepare himself for 
supplying the pessaries we were going to recommend. 

The morning of October 16, 191 6 — crisp but sunny and bright 
after days of rain — Ethel, Fania, and I opened the doors of the first 
birth control clinic in America, the first anywhere in the world except 
the Netherlands. I still believe this was an event of social significance. 

Would the women come? Did they come? Nothing, not even the 
ghost of Anthony Comstock, could have kept them away. We had 
arrived early, but before we could get the place dusted and ourselves 
ready for the official reception, Fania called, "Do come outside and 
look." Halfway to the corner they were standing in line, at least one 
hundred and fifty, some shawled, some hatless, their red hands 
clasping the cold, chapped, smaller ones of their children. 

Fania began taking names, addresses, object in coming to the 
clinic, histories — married or single, any miscarriages or abortions, 
how many children, where born, what ages. Remembering how the 
Netherlands clinics in recording nothing had made it almost hope- 
less to measure what they had accomplished from the human point 
of view, I had resolved that our files should be as complete as it 
was possible to make them. Fania had a copy of What Every Girl 



FAITH I HAVE BEEN A TRUANT IN THE LAW 217 

Should Know on her desk, and, if she had a free moment, read from 
it. When asked, she told where it could be bought, and later kept 
a few copies for the convenience of those who wanted them. 

Children were left with her and mothers ushered in to Ethel or 
me in the rear room, from seven to ten at once. To each group we 
explained simply what contraception was; that abortion was the 
wrong way — no matter how early it was performed it was taking 
life; that contraception was the better way, the safer way — it took 
a little time, a little trouble, but was well worth while in the long 
run, because life had not yet begun. 

Some women were alone, some "were in pairs, some with their 
neighbors, some with their married daughters. Some did not dare 
talk this over with their husbands, and some had been urged on by 
them. At seven in the evening they were still coming, and men also, 
occasionally bringing their timid, embarrassed wives, or once in a 
while by themselves to say they would stay home to take care of 
the children if their wives could come. A hundred women and forty 
men passed through the doors, but we could not begin to finish 
the line; the rest were told to return "tomorrow." 

In the course of the next few days women appeared clutching 
minute scraps of paper, seldom more than an inch wide, which had 
crept into print. The Yiddish and Italian papers had picked up the 
story from the handbills which bore the clinic address, and the hus- 
bands had read them on their way from work and clipped them out 
for their wives. Women who had seen the brief, inconspicuous news- 
paper accounts came even from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New 
Jersey, and the far end of Long Island. 

Newly married couples with little but love, faith, and hope to 
save them from charity, told of the tiny flats they had chosen, and 
of their determination to make a go of it together if only the chil- 
dren were not born too soon. A gaunt skeleton suddenly stood up 
one morning and made an impassioned speech. "They offer us char- 
ity when we have more babies than we can feed, and when we get 
sick with more babies for trying not to have them they just give us 
more charity talks!" 

Women who were themselves already past childbearing age came 
just to urge us to preserve others from the sorrows of ruined health, 



2l8 MARGARET SANGER 

overworked husbands, and broods of defective and wayward chil- 
dren growing up in the streets, filling dispensaries and hospitals, 
filing through the juvenile courts. 

We made records of every applicant and, though the details might 
vary, the stories were basically identical. All were confused, grop- 
ing among the ignorant sex-teachings of the poor, fumbling without 
guidance after truth, misled and bewildered in a tangled jungle of 
popular superstitions and old wives' remedies. Unconsciously they 
dramatized the terrible need of intelligent and scientific instruction 
in these matters of life — and death. 

As was inevitable many were kept away by the report that the 
police were to raid us for performing abortions. "Clinic" was a word 
which to the uneducated usually signified such a place. We would not 
have minded particularly being raided on this charge, because we 
could easily disprove it. But these rumors also brought the most 
pitiful of all, the reluctantly expectant mothers who hoped to find 
some means of getting out of their dilemmas. Their desperate threats 
of suicide haunted you at night. 

One Jewish wife, after bringing eight children to birth, had had 
two abortions and heaven knows how many miscarriages. Worn 
out, beaten down, not only by toiling in her own kitchen, but by 
taking in extra work from a sweatshop making hats, she was now 
at the end of her strength, nervous beyond words, and in a state of 
morbid excitement. "If you don't help me, I'm going to chop up a 
glass and swallow it tonight.'' 

A woman wrought to the pitch of killing herself was sick — 
a community responsibility. She, most of all, required concentrated at- 
tention and devotion, and I could not let any such go out of the clinic 
until her mood had been altered. Building up hope for the future 
seemed the best deterrent. "Your husband and your children need 
you. One more won't make so much difference." I had to make each 
promise to go ahead and have this baby and myself promise in re- 
turn, "You won't ever have to again. We're going to take care of you." 

Day after day the waiting room was crowded with members of 
every race and creed; Jews and Christians, Protestants and Roman 
Catholics alike made their confessions to us, whatever they may 
have professed at home or in church. I asked one bright little Catho- 



FAITH I HAVE BEEN A TRUANT IN THE LAW 219 

lie what excuse she could make to the priest when he learned she 
had been to the clinic. She answered indignantly, "It's none of his 
business. My husband has a weak heart and works only four days 
a week. He gets twelve dollars, and we can barely live on it now. 
We have enough children." 

Her friend, sitting by, nodded approval. "When I was married," 
she broke in, "the priest told us to have lots of children and we 
listened to him. I had fifteen. Six are living. I'm thirty-seven years 
old now. Look at me ! I might be fifty !" 

That evening I made a mental calculation of fifteen baptismal fees, 
nine baby funerals, masses and candles for the repose of nine baby 
souls, the physical agonies of the mother and the emotional torment 
of both parents, and I asked myself, "Is this the price of Christianity ?" 

But it was not altogether sad; we were often cheered by gayer 
visitors. The grocer's wife on the corner and the widow with six 
children who kept the lunch room up the street dropped in to wish 
us luck, and the fat old German baker whose wife gave out hand- 
bills to everybody passing the door sent regular donations of dough- 
nuts. Whenever the pressure became so overwhelming that we could 
not go out for a meal we were sure to hear Mrs. Rabinowitz call 
downstairs, "If I bring some hot tea now, will you stop the people 
coming?" Two jovial policemen paused at the doorway each morn- 
ing to discuss the weather. Reporters looked in speculating on how 
long we were going to last. The postman delivering his customary 
fifty to a hundred letters had his little pleasantry, "Farewell, ladies ; 
hope I find you here tomorrow." 

Although the line outside was enough to arouse police attention, 
nine days went by without interference. Then one afternoon when 
I, still undiscouraged, was out interviewing a doctor, a woman, large 
of builcl and hard of countenance, entered and said to Fania she was 
the mother of two children and that she had no money to support 
more. She did not appear overburdened or anxious and, because she 
was so well fed as to body and prosperous as to clothes, did not 
seem to belong to the community. She bought a copy of What Every 
Girl Should Know and insisted on paying two dollars instead of the 
usual ten-cent fee. 

Fania, who had an intuition about such matters, called Ethel aside 



220 MARGARET SANGER 

and said warningly she was certain this must be a policewoman. 
But Ethel, who was not of the cautious type, replied, "We have 
nothing to hide. Bring her in anyhow." She talked with the woman 
in private, gave her our literature and, when asked about our fu- 
ture plans, related them frankly. The sceptical Fania pinned the 
two-dollar bill on the wall and wrote underneath, "Received from 

Mrs. of the Police Department, as her contribution." Hourly 

after that we expected trouble. We had known it must occur sooner 
or later, but would have preferred it to come about in a different 
way. 

The next day Ethel and Fania were both absent from the clinic. 
The waiting room was filled almost to suffocation when the door 
opened and the woman who had been described to me came in. 

"Are you Mrs. Sanger?" 

"Yes.'-' 

"I'm a police officer. You're under arrest." 

The doors were locked and this Mrs. Margaret Whitehurst and 
other plain-clothes members of the vice squad — used to raiding 
gambling dens and houses of assignation — began to demand names 
and addresses of the women, seeing them with babies, broken, old, 
worried, harrowed, yet treating them as though they were inmates 
of a brothel. Always fearful in the presence of the police, some be- 
gan to cry aloud and the children on their laps screamed too. For 
a few moments it was like a panic, until I was able to assure them 
that only I was under arrest ; nothing was going to happen to them, 
and they could return home if they were quiet. After half an hour I 
finally persuaded the policemen to let these frightened women go. 

All of our four hundred and sixty- four case histories were con- 
fiscated, and the table and demonstration supplies were carried off 
through the patient line outside. The more timid had left, but many 
had stayed. This was a region where a crowd could be collected by 
no more urgent gesture than a tilt of the head skyward. Newspaper 
men with their cameras had joined the throng and the street was 
packed. Masses of people spilled out over the sidewalk on to the 
pavement, milling excitedly. 

The patrol wagon came rattling up to our door. I had a certain 
respect for uniformed policemen — you knew what they were about 



FAITH I HAVE BEEN A TRUANT IN THE LAW 221 

— but none whatsoever for the vice squad. I was white hot with in- 
dignation over their unspeakable attitude towards the clinic mothers 
and stated I preferred to walk the mile to the court rather than sit 
with them. Their feelings were quite hurt. "Why, we didn't do any- 
thing to you, Mrs. Sanger," they protested. Nevertheless I marched 
ahead, they following behind. 

A reporter from the Brooklyn Eagle fell into step beside me and 
before we had gone far suggested, "Now I'll fix it up with the 
police that you make a getaway, and when we reach that corner you 
run. I'll stop and talk to them while you skip around the block and 
get to the station first." It was fantastic for anyone so to misconstrue 
what I was doing as to imagine I would run around the block for a 
publicity stunt. 

,1 stayed overnight at the Raymond Street Jail, and I shall never 
forget it. The mattresses were spotted and smelly, the blankets stiff 
with dirt and grime. The stench nauseated me. It was not a comfort- 
ing thought to go without bedclothing when it was so cold, but, hav- 
ing in mind the diseased occupants who might have preceded me, I 
could not bring myself to creep under the covers. Instead I lay 
down on top and wrapped my coat around me. The only clean ob- 
ject was my towel, and this I draped over my face and head. For 
endless hours I struggled with roaches and horrible-looking bugs 
that came crawling out of the walls and across the floor. When a rat 
jumped up on the bed I cried out involuntarily and sent it scuttling 
out. 

My cell- was at the end of a center row, all opening front and 
back upon two corridors. The prisoners gathered in one of the aisles 
the next morning and I joined them. Most had been accused of minor 
offenses such as shoplifting and petty thievery. Many had weather- 
beaten faces, were a class by themselves, laughing and unconcerned. 
But I heard no coarse language. Underneath the chatter I sensed a 
deep and bitter resentment; some of them had been there for three or 
four months without having been brought to trial. The more fortu- 
nate had a little money to engage lawyers ; others had to wait for the 
court to assign them legal defenders. 

While I was talking to the girls, the matron bustled up with, "The 
ladies are coming !" and shooed us into our cells. The Ladies, a com- 



222 MARGARET SANGER 

mittee from a society for prison reform, peered at us as though we 
were animals in cages. A gentle voice cooed at me, "Did you come 
in during the night?" 

"Yes," I returned, overlooking the assumption that I was a street 
walker. 

"Can we do anything for you?" 

The other inmates were sitting in their corners looking as inno- 
cent and sweet as they could, but I startled her by saying, "Yes, you 
can. Come in and clean up this place. It's filthy and verminous^" 

The Committee departed hurriedly down the corridor. One more 
alert member, however, came back to ask, "Is it really very dirty?" 

Although I told her in some detail about the blankets, the odors, the 
roaches, she obviously could not picture the situation. "I'm terribly 
sorry, but we can't change it." 

I was still exasperated over this reply when I was called to the 
reception room to give an interview to reporters. In addition to an- 
swering questions about the raid I said I had a message to the tax- 
payers of Brooklyn; they were paying money to keep their prisons 
run in an orderly fashion as in any civilized community and should 
know it was being wasted, because the conditions at Raymond Street 
were intolerable. 

My bail was arranged by afternoon and when I emerged I saw 
waiting in front the woman who was going to swallow the glass; 
she had been there all that time. 

I went straight back to the clinic, reopened it, and more mothers 
came in. I had hoped a court decision might allow us to continue, 
but now Mr. Rabinowitz came downstairs apologetically. He said 
he was sorry, and he really was, but the police had made him sign 
ejection papers, on the ground that I was "maintaining a public 
nuisance." 

In the Netherlands a clinic had been cited as a public benefac- 
tion; in the United States it was classed as a public nuisance. 

Two uniformed policemen came for me, and with them I was 
willing to ride in the patrol wagon to the station. As we started I 
heard a scream from a woman who had just come around the cor- 
ner on her way to the clinic. She abandoned her baby carriage, 
rushed through the crowd, and cried, "Come back! Come back and 



FAITH I HAVE BEEN A TRUANT IN THE LAW 223 

save me !" For a dozen yards she ran after the van before someone 
caught her and led her to the sidewalk. But the last thing I heard 
was this poor distracted mother, shrieking and calling, "Come back ! 
Come back !" 



Chapter Eighteen 



LEAN HUNGER AND GREEN THIRST 



''All that we know who lie in gaol 
Is that the wall is strong; 

And that each day is like a year, 
A year whose days are long." 

OSCAR WILDE 



LOOKING back upon this period fraught with emotional distress, 
j I have no regrets. But, looking ahead, I am grateful that there 
looms no necessity for repeating those passionate, dangerous, and 
menacing days. 

Out of the raid four separate cases resulted: Ethel was charged 
with violating Section 1142 of the Penal Code, designed to prevent 
dissemination of contraceptive information; Fania with having sold 
an allegedly indecent book entitled What Every Girl Should Know; 
I, first, with having conducted a clinic in violation of the same Sec- 
tion 1 142, second, with violating Section 1530 by maintaining a 
public nuisance. 

I claimed that Section 1142 which forbade contraceptive informa- 
tion to, for, and by anyone was unconstitutional, because no state 
was permitted to interfere with a citizen's right to' life or liberty, and 
such denial was certainly interference. Experience had shown it did 
the case no good merely to defend such a stand in a lower court; it 
must be carried to a higher tribunal, and only a lawyer versed in 
whereases and whatsoevers and inasmuchases could accomplish this. 
But I was still hopeful of finding one who was able to see that the 
importance of birth control could not be properly emphasized if we 
bowed too deeply before the slow and ponderous majesty of the law. 

The attorney who offered himself, J. J. Goldstein, had a back- 

224 



LEAN HUNGER AND GREEN THIRST 225 

ground which made him more sympathetic than other lawyers, even 
the most liberal. He was one of those young Jewish men of promise 
who had been guided through adolescence by Mary Simkhovitch, 
founder of Greenwich House, and Lillian Wald, founder of the 
Henry Street Settlement. The 'seeds of social service had been planted 
in him ; his legal training only temporarily slowed down their growth. 

J.J. had placed himself in a difficult position for a youthful Tam- 
many Democrat, some day to be a magistrate; he might have been 
forgiven more easily had he received a larger fee. Though he had to 
be convinced that we declined to have anything to do with political 
wire-pulling, he fought for us valiantly. 

November 20th we pleaded not guilty and trial was set for Novem- 
ber 27th. J.J. endeavored to have the three of us tried simultaneously, 
but the Court of Special Sessions would have none of it. Then he 
asked for a jury trial, which could be granted at the discretion of the 
Supreme Court; application was denied. An appeal to the Appellate 
Division was dismissed ; writs of habeas corpus were dismissed ; an- 
other appeal to the Appellate Division was dismissed; adjournments 
pending appeal were urged but not granted. Indeed I was being swiftly 
educated in the technicalities of criminal law. 

I felt like a victim who passed into the courtroom, was made to 
bow before the judge, and did not know what it was all about. Every 
gesture had its special significance, which must not be left out if ap- 
peals were to be possible. We had to make many more appearances 
than would otherwise have been necessary ; everything had to be cor- 
rectly on the record. 

Evening after evening J.J. rehearsed the arguments he was going 
to present and directed me to respond to questioning. I did not 
understand the technicalities and begged to be allowed to tell the 
story in my own way, fearful lest the heartaches of the mothers be 
lost in the labyrinthine maze of judicial verbiage. But he maintained 
if the case were to be appealed to a higher court, it had to be con- 
ducted according to certain formalities. 

"Why should it have to be in legal language?" I demanded. "I'm 
a simple citizen, born in a democratic country. A court should also 
listen to my plea expressed in plain language for the common people. 
I'm sure I can make them understand and arouse their compassion." 



226 MARGARET SANGER 

He reiterated that I could not address a court as though I were 
trying to instil my views in an individual. "You can't talk to them 
that way. You'll have to let me talk." 

"But that's the way I talk and I'm the accused." 

I fully expected that if I were permitted to set forth my human 
version of the Brownsville tragedies, no appeal would be required. 
But J.J. knew the courts and had no such hopes. He was still doubt- 
ful of any success before the lower tribunal, and was still unable to 
see my point, counting chiefly on technicalities to win the case. 

J.J. had formally objected to having our trial set during the No- 
vember session because Justice Mclnerney was due to preside that 
month, and at previous trials he had expressed biased opinions. This 
objection was overruled. 

The strictly legal method having failed, I resorted to my own and 
wrote Justice Mclnerney an open letter : 

As an American pledged to the principles and spirit in which this 
Republic was founded, as a judge obligated by oath to fair and im- 
partial judgment, do you in your deepest conscience consider your- 
self qualified to try my case ? 

In those birth control cases at which you have presided, you have 
shown to all thinking men and women an unfailing prejudice and 
exposed a mind steeped in the bigotry and intolerance of the In- 
quisition. 

To come before you implies conviction. 

Judge Mclnerney "made application to the District Attorney to be 
taken off this case." 

Trial was marked for January 4, 19 17, but the first case, that of 
Ethel, was reached so late in the afternoon it had to be postponed. 
Four days afterwards, in spite of our attempts to be tried together, 
she appeared alone. She freely admitted she had described birth con- 
trol methods but denied the District Attorney's accusation that our 
ten-cent registration fee made it a "money making" affair. This and 
other sensational charges, such as "the clinic was intended to do away 
with the Jews" were often inserted in the records for reporters to 
pick up, make good stories of them, and in consequence influence 
newspaper readers against us. They were great stumbling blocks. 

Our most important witness, Dr. Morris H. Kahn, physician in 



LEAN HUNGER AND GREEN THIRST 227 

Bloomingdale's Department Store who also maintained a private 
clinic where he gave out birth control information, was ready to 
testify, but his evidence was ruled out as "irrelevant, incompetent, 
and immaterial." To be sure the charge against Ethel was as a lay 
person ; nevertheless, it was extraordinary that we could get no hear- 
ing for a doctor. J. J. was allowed only fifteen minutes to present his 
argument on the unconstitutionality of Section 1142, and the presid- 
ing Judge decided that the court was bound to hold it constitutional 
on precedent, regardless of argument. 

Ethel was found guilty. 

In the two weeks before sentence was to be pronounced we debated 
what she and I should do. Perhaps it could be stayed, which would 
settle everything, but we each had to be prepared for either a short 
term of imprisonment or a long one. In case of the former, submis- 
sion was the wiser course, because the public would not consider it 
of sufficient moment to bestir itself; in the latter event, a hunger 
strike seemed indicated, but, again, only if sufficient attention could 
be called to it. 

The New York World had the most liberal policy of all the lead- 
ing morning dailies, and therefore appeared to offer the best likeli- 
hood of being favorably disposed. I approached one of its editors 
and asked whether he would print our entire story if I were to give 
him a scoop and guarantee accuracy. He agreed, and assigned us a 
special reporter. 

Ethel was sentenced January 22nd to thirty days in the Workhouse 
on Blackwell's Island in the East River. In spite of our discussion 
over this possibility, she was utterly shocked, and exclaimed, "I'm 
going to go on that hunger strike." 

After spending the night in the Tombs, she was returned the next 
morning to the Federal District Court of Brooklyn on a writ of habeas 
corpus as a means of suspending sentence pending appeal. Daylight 
had brought no change in her determination to continue with the 
hunger strike. "I haven't had anything to eat yet," she declared, and, 
remembering the tale that one hunger striker had received nourish- 
ment in her cups of water, she added, "and, if they send me back, I 
shan't drink anything either." 

Neither J.J. nor I considered such a short sentence worth break- 



228 MARGARET SANGER 

ing your life for. Furthermore, the cause did not mean to Ethel 
what it did to me. "Think this over very carefully," I reminded her. 
"A hunger strike is not necessary, and if you once start you'll have 
to keep it up." She insisted that she was ready to die if need be; 
she had made her will and arranged for the disposition of her two 
children — the hunger strike was to go on- The writ was refused 
and she was remanded to the Workhouse. On her way there she told 
the women with whom she shared the patrol wagon the salient facts 
of birth control. 

When Commissioner of Correction Burdette G. Lewis was asked 
to comment on Ethel's decision he scoffed. "Others have threatened 
hunger strikes. It means nothing." At first no food at all was brought 
her, but after the publicity began the authorities were in despair 
to make her eat. This was a case they did not know how to handle ; 
they were mentally unprepared for prisoners who were guilty of per- 
forming a legal wrong in order to win a legal right. 

Ethel had gone one hundred and three hours without eating when 
Commissioner Lewis established a precedent in American prison an- 
nals by ordering her forcibly fed, the first woman to be so treated 
in this country. He stated optimistically to the press how simple the 
process was, consisting of merely rolling her in a blanket so she 
could not struggle, and then having milk, eggs, and a stimulant forced 
into her stomach through a rubber tube. He stressed how healthy 
she continued to be, how little opposition she offered, how foolish 
the whole thing appeared to him anyhow; he was going to charge 
her for the expense incurred in calling in an expert to feed her. 

As soon as I heard my sister was "passive under the feeding" I 
became desperately anxious about her; nothing but complete loss of 
strength could have lessened her resistance. 

After one interview Commissioner Lewis had barred all reporters 
and given out a statement of his own. "I have not much patience 
with Mrs. Byrne's efforts to get advertising for her cause, and I 
won't help such a campaign along by issuing bulletins." 

But bulletins were being issued, nevertheless — and printed. 

From prearranged sources I was receiving messages and notes 
each evening, and reports on Ethel's pulse and temperature. Thus 
I learned her vision was becoming affected and her heart was begin- 



LEAN HUNGER AND GREEN THIRST 229 

ning to miss beats, due to lack of liquids. "Going without water was 
pretty bad," she said herself. "At night the woman whose duty it was 
to go up and down the corridors to give the prisoners a drink if they 
wanted it stopped right by my cell and cried, 'Water! Water!' till 
it seemed as if I could not stand it. And on the other side of me 
was the sound of the river through the window." 

Nobody was allowed to visit Ethel but J.J., who, as her lawyer, 
could not well be refused. But reporters have their own mysterious 
ways of getting what they want. The World man succeeded in reach- 
ing her. It was not on the whole a successful interview, because she 
did not know who he was, but it did have one important result — 
it confirmed at first hand our statements as to the seriousness of her 
condition. 

In the midst of my anxiety over Ethel, my own trial opened 
January 29th in the same bare, smoky, upstairs Brooklyn court in 
which she had appeared. Justices John J. Freschi, Italian, Moses 
Hermann, Jewish, and George J. O'Keefe, Irish, sat on the bench. 
Judge Freschi, a rather young man, presided, and on him we pinned 
our hopes. We did not expect anything of old Judge Herrmann ex- 
cept that, because he was Jewish, he might be broad-minded. As to 
Judge O'Keefe we had no illusions. 

No less than thirty of the mothers of Brownsville had been sub- 
poenaed by the prosecution, but about fifty arrived — some equipped 
with fruit, bread, pacifiers, and extra diapers, others distressed at 
having had to spend carfare, timid at the thought of being in court, 
hungry because no kosher food could be obtained near by. Neverthe- 
less, all smiled and nodded at me reassuringly. 

Formerly, a few women of wealth but of liberal tendencies had 
been actively concerned in the movement, but now some who were 
prominent socially were coming to believe on principle that birth con- 
trol should not be denied to the masses. The subject was in the process 
of ceasing to be tagged as radical and revolutionary, and becoming 
admittedly humanitarian. 

In this room, side by side with the ones to be helped, sat new help- 
ers. Among them was Mrs. Amos Pinchot, Chairman of the Women's 
Committee of One Hundred, formed to lend support to the defense. 
Her reddish hair betrayed a temper quick and easily aroused in the 



23O MARGARET SANGER 

cause of justice. Aristocratic of bearing, autocratic by position, she 
was one to command and be obeyed, and was easily a leading per- 
sonality in the philanthropic smart set of New York. Among her 
valuable services was the bringing into the fold of the mothers and 
aunts of the present active Junior Leaguers. 

Mrs. Lewis L. Delafield's limousine stood in front of the doors at 
almost every trial and it meant a great deal to the defendants to have 
the wife of one of the most eminent members of the New York bar 
in the courtroom. By her very demeanor and looks — white-haired, a 
fragile countenance — you knew she could touch nothing that was 
not fine, and that she had the spiritual courage to stand by her ideas 
and ideals in both her public and private life. Always she opened 
her home and her heart and her arms to those she loved. 

Fania was called first. She was a girl with a pale and delicate face, 
and was too worried to bear the strain. She should not be punished 
for co-operating, and I told J.J. to notify the court that she was not 
well, though I strictly forbade him to say anything about my health. 
Her trial was brief, narrowing itself down to whether What Every 
Girl Should Know was to be classed as indecent. A few days later 
she was found guilty and sentenced to fifty dollars' fine, a decision 
which was eventually reversed on appeal. 

It surprised me that in my trial the prosecution should be carried 
on so vehemently, because the prosecutor had little to prove. To me 
there seemed to be no argument at all; the last thing in my mind 
was to deny having given birth control advice. Certainly I had vio- 
lated the letter of the law, but that was what I was opposing. 

I grew more and more puzzled by the stilted language, the circum- 
locutions, the respect for precedent. These legal battles, fought in a 
curiously unreal world, intensified my defiance to the breaking point. 
I longed for a discussion in the open on merit and in simple, honest 
terms. 

I thought I might have my wish when Judge Freschi, holding up 
a cervical cap which the prosecuting attorney had put in evidence, 
said, "Who can prove this is a violation ; the law states that contra- 
ception is permitted for the prevention of disease. May it not be used 
for medical reasons?" 



LEAN HUNGER AND GREEN THIRST 23 1 

This question raised my hopes high. At last the law might be inter- 
preted according to the definition I so desired; ill health resulting 
from pregnancy caused by lack of its use might be construed as dis- 
ease. 

Then one by one the Brownsville mothers were called to the stand 
to answer the District Attorney. "Have you ever seen Mrs. Sanger 
before?" 

"Yess. Yess, I know Mrs. Sanger." 

"Where did you see her ?" 

"At the cleenic." 

"Why did you go there?" 

"To have her stop the babies." 

The witness bowed sweet acknowledgment to me until she was 
peremptorily commanded to address the court. 

"Did you get this information ?" 

"Yess. Yess, dank you, I got it. It wass gut, too." 

"Enough." the District Attorney barked, and called another. 

Time after time they gave answers that were like nails to seal my 
doom, yet each thought she was assisting me. 

J.J. saw how their testimony could be turned to our advantage. 

He asked, "How many miscarriages have you had? How much 
sickness in your family? How much does your husband earn? The 
answers were seven, eight, nine dollars a week." 

At last one woman more miserable and more poverty-stricken than 
the rest was summoned. "How many children have you ?" 

"Eight and three that didn't live." 

"What does your husband earn?" 

"Ten dollars a veek — ven he vorks." 

Judge Freschi finally exclaimed, "I can't stand this any longer," 
and the court adjourned over the week-end. 

J.J. was jubilant, because he said there was nothing for him to do ; 
the court was arguing his case for him. 

I myself was feeling a little conscience-smitten. A mass meeting 
of sympathizers had been organized by the Committee of One Hun- 
dred for that evening in Carnegie Hall, and I went straight there 
from the courtroom. I had a speech ready in which I said we were 



232 MARGARET SANGER 

being persecuted, not prosecuted; that the judges were no better than 
witch-burners. It was unfortunate, but copies had already been re- 
leased to the press and the wording could not be changed. 

Helen Todd, the Chairman, a grand person who had been trained 
under Jane Addams, had given the mothers of Brownsville places 
of honor on the platform to let everybody see what kind of women 
we were fighting for. She asked for twenty volunteers to follow the 
example of the English suffragettes who had gone on hunger strikes 
en masse, but no women whose names registered socially in the public 
mind were willing thus to join in protesting against the law; only 
working girls came forward. 

Three days later Jessie Ashley and I took the train for Albany 
with Mrs. Pinchot, who was a close friend of Governor Charles S. 
Whitman, to ask him to appoint a commission to investigate birth 
control and make a report to the State Legislature. The Governor, 
who was fair and intelligent, quite distinctly representing a class of 
liberal politicians, received us cordially. 

Ethel and her hunger strike had been front-page news for ten 
days; in the subway, on street corners, everywhere people gathered, 
she was being discussed. In Washington and Albany congressmen 
and legislators were sending out for the latest details. Governor Whit- 
man naturally asked about her, and we seized the opportunity to try 
to impress on him the outrageousness of making her suffer for so 
just a cause. He said directly her incarceration was a disgrace to the 
State. He was entirely out of sympathy with the courts and judges, 
and offered a pardon conditional upon her ceasing to disseminate 
birth control information. 

But I had not come to ask that favor. 

"My sister wouldn't take a pardon," I replied, much to the distress 
of Mrs. Pinchot. However, I accepted gratefully his letter to the 
warden at Blackwell's Island authorizing me to see her. 

The next morning I appeared again before the court. During the 
three-day interim the effect of the mothers' testimony had evidently 
been effaced from the judges' minds, and they were infuriated by my 
Carnegie Hall denunciation. But far more detrimental to my hope 
of a new interpretation was the prosecution's introduction of a Federal 
agent who had once confiscated a copy of Family Limitation in which 



LEAN HUNGER AND GREEN THIRST 233 

was the picture of this same cervical cap; he read aloud my advice 
to women to use it as a" means of preventing conception. Not even 
the most friendly judge could get away from the fact that I had in- 
tended a far broader definition than any permitted by the existing 
law. 

The prosecution argued further that the constitutionality of Sec- 
tion 1 142 could not be challenged, because the exception for physicians 
in Section 1 145 already guaranteed "liberty" to citizens. And, since 
I was not a physician and consequently did not come under the ex- 
ception, the court must, in any event, find me guilty. This they did. 

The day had been so full that I was not able to avail myself of 
Governor Whitman's permit to visit Ethel until evening, when Mr. 
and Mrs. Pinchot took me in their car to the Workhouse. I remember 
how cold it was ; the trip on the ferry seemed to go on forever. But 
when we finally arrived, at the name of Pinchot, the friend of the 
Governor, doors swung open ; officialdom turned polite and courteous 
and salaamed us on our way. 

The Pinchots remained below while I was sent up to Ethel's cell, 
where she was lying on her iron cot, dressed in readiness for her 
release. Her appearance shocked and horrified me. She had grown 
thin and emaciated, her eyes were sunken and her tongue swollen, 
high red spots stood out on her cheeks. She could not see me even 
across the narrow cell, knowing me only by my voice. Hers was muffled 
as she whispered me to come nearer, her mind confused. "Liberty," 
she kept repeating, "I want my liberty." 

Her life was all that mattered to me now. I had to eat humble pie, 
and said to the matron I was going to telegraph Governor Whitman 
that she was too ill to accept the conditions of the pardon for her- 
self, but I would promise on her behalf. I was told that he had already 
signed the pardon, was on his way to New York, and to wait down- 
stairs, please. 

After about half an hour we were informed Mrs. Byrne was com- 
ing down. I went along the hallway to meet her. She was being held 
up by two attendants, the matron following with wraps. Her head 
was rolling from side to side, and I could see from the pallor of her 
face, especially from the pinched look of her nose and mouth, that 
she was losing consciousness. I protested to the matron, but orders 



234 MARGARET SANGER 

had been given and were being obeyed ; Commissioner Lewis wanted 
the newspaper pictures to show her coming out on her feet. 

Running back to the room where the Pinchots were sitting, I ex- 
claimed, "She's fainting!" Then Mrs. Einchot clapped her hands im- 
periously and directed the attendants to lay Ethel down immediately 
and bring a stretcher. A command from her worked like magic. She 
wrapped her own fur coat around the pathetic figure and, as soon 
as Ethel felt the softness and warmth, she knew she was safe. We 
carried her over to my apartment to begin the protracted period of 
recuperation. Only after a year's convalescence was she able to take 
up a normal life again. 

Being the real instigator, I had every reason to expect a longer term 
than Ethel. Logically, her hunger strike had served its purpose ; that 
form of strategy was closed. But personally I decided that, if I should 
receive a year, I should do the same. On the other hand, if I were 
given three months or less, I could study and make use of my time. 
J.J. had heard on reliable authority that if I were to change my plea 
to guilty, I could have a suspended sentence. To his mind freedom 
alone meant victory, and he urged me to accept it if it were offered. 

This, it developed, was the intention of the court when on Mon- 
day I was called back for sentence. Having Ethel off the front page 
had brought a sigh of relief of almost national scope. But all the 
publicity had had its effect on public opinion, and doubtless influenced 
the judges also to a certain extent. Since they could not agree to 
change the interpretation of the law, they had been obliged to find 
me guilty, but they did not really want to inflict punishment. 

They were, however, extremely suspicious of our assertion that 
we were going to carry the case higher. Jessie Ashley, Ida Rauh, 
and Bolton Hall had all been let off with fines on the understanding 
they proposed to appeal, and then they had not done so. Courts were 
beginning to assume this was just a trick of birth control advocates, 
not meant in good faith. 

I sat listening to what seemed an interminable discussion between 
J.J. and Judge Freschi over whether the appeal were going to be 
prosecuted in a quick and orderly fashion, until I was nearly lulled 
to sleep. Suddenly my attention was caught by hearing J.J. declare 
that I would "promise not to violate the law." 



LEAN HUNGER AND GREEN THIRST 235 

My mind clicked. It was not in my program to bargain for free- 
dom. J J., knowing fulhwell I would make no such promise, had 
planted himself in front of me so the court could not see my bel- 
ligerent face. He was trying to act as a buffer and, at the same time, 
for fear of what I might say, to avoid having me summoned to the 
stand. I tried to peer around him, but he shifted from side to side, 
obscuring my view. I tugged on his coat like a badly brought up child, 
but he took no notice. Finally one of the judges interposed, "Your 
client wishes to speak to you, counselor." I could be ignored no longer, 
and was called. "Margaret Sanger, stand up." 

History is written in retrospect, but contemporary documents must 
be consulted; therefore I have gone to the official records for the 
facts. After all, one courtroom is much like another, and the attitude 
of one justice not so dissimilar from that of another. I was combat- 
ing a mass ideology, and the judges who were its spokesmen merged 
into a single voice, all saying, "Be good and we'll let you off." This 
is what I heard: 

You have been in court during the time that your counsel made 
the statement that pending the prosecution of appeal neither you nor 
those affiliated with you in this so called movement will violate the 
law ; that is the promise your counsel makes for you. Now, the Court 
is considering extreme clemency in your case. Possibly you know 
what extreme clemency means. Now, do you personally make that 
promise ? 

The Defendant : Pending the appeal. 

The Court : If Mrs. Sanger will state publicly and openly that she 
will be a law-abiding citizen without any qualifications whatsoever, 
this Court is prepared to exercise the highest degree of leniency. 
The Defendant : I'd like to have it understood by the gentlemen of 
the Court that the offer of leniency is very kind and I appreciate it 
very much. It is with me not a question of personal imprisonment or 
personal disadvantage. I am today and always have been more con- 
cerned with changing the law regardless of what I have to undergo 
to have it done. 

The Court : Then I take it that you are indifferent about this matter 
entirely. 

The Defendant: No, I am not indifferent. I am indifferent as to 
the personal consequences to myself, but I am not indifferent to the 
cause and the influence which can be attained for the cause. 
The Court : Since you are of that mind, am I to infer that you in- 



236 MARGARET SANGER 

tend to go on in this matter, violating the law, irrespective of the 
consequences ? 

The Defendant : I haven't said that. I said I am perfectly willing 
not to violate Section 11 42 — pending the appeal. 
Justice Herrmann : The appeal has nothing to do with it. Either 
you do or you don't. 

The Court : (to Mr. Goldstein) What is the use of beating around 
the bush ? You have communicated to me in my chambers the physical 
condition of your client, and you told me that this woman would 
respect the law. This law was not made by us. We are simply here 
to judge the case. We harbor no feeling against Mrs. Sanger. We 
have nothing to do with her beliefs, except in so far as she carries 
those beliefs into practice and violates the law. But in view of your 
statement that you intend to prosecute this appeal and make a test 
case out of this and in view of the fact that we are to regard her as 
a first offender, surely we want to temper justice with mercy and that's 
all we are trying to do. And we ask her, openly and above board, "Will 
you publicly declare that you will respect the law and not violate it?" 
and then we get an answer with a qualification. Now, what can the 
prisoner at the bar for sentence expect ? I don't know that a prisoner 
under such circumstances is entitled to very much consideration after 
all." 

The Court : (to the Defendant) We don't want you to do impossible 
things, Mrs. Sanger, only the reasonable thing and that is to comply 
with this law as long as it remains the law. It is the law for you, it is 
the law for me, it is the law for all of us until it is changed; and 
you know what means and avenues are open to you to have it 
changed, and they are lawful ways. You may prosecute these methods, 
and no one can find fault with you. If you succeed in changing the law, 
well and good. If you fail, then you have to bow in submission to the 
majority rule. 

The Defendant : It is just the chance, the opportunity to test it. 
The Court : Very good. You have had your day in court ; you ad- 
vocated a cause, you were brought to the bar, you wanted to be tried 
here, you were judged, you didn't go on the stand and commit perjury 
in any sense, you took the facts and accepted them as true, and you 
are ready for judgment, even the worst. Now, we are prepared, how- 
ever, under all the circumstances of this case, to be extremely lenient 
with you if you will tell us that you will respect this law and not 
violate it again. 

The Defendant : I have given you my answer. 
The Court: We don't want any qualifications. We are not con- 
cerned with the appeal. 
Mr, Goldstein : Just one other statement, your Honor, one final 



LEAN HUNGER AND GREEN THIRST 237 

statement on my part. Your Honor did well say that you didn't want 
anything unreasonable. With all due deference to your Honor, to 
ask a person what her frame of mind will be with so many exigencies 
in future, that is, if the commission did nothing or the Legislature 
did nothing — 

The Court : All we are concerned about is this statute, and as long 
as it remains the law will this woman promise here and now unquali- 
fiedly to respect it and obey it? Now, it is yes or no. What is your 
answer, Mrs. Sanger ? Is it yes or no ? 
The Defendent : I can't respect the law as it stands today. 
The Court : Margaret Sanger, there is evidence that you established 
and maintained a birth control clinic where you kept for sale and ex- 
hibition to various women articles which purported to be for the pre- 
vention of conception, and that there you made a determined effort 
to disseminate birth control information and advice. You have chal- 
lenged the constitutionality of the law under consideration and the 
jurisdiction of this Court. When this is done in an orderly way no 
one can find fault. It is your right as a citizen. . . . Refusal to obey 
the law becomes an open defiance of the rule of the majority. While 
the law is in its present form, defiance provokes anything but reason- 
able consideration. The judgment of the Court is that you be con- 
fined to the Workhouse for the period of thirty days. 

A single cry, "Shame !" was followed by a sharp rap of the gavel, 
and silence fell. 



Chapter Nineteen 



THIS PRISON WHERE I LIVE 



I SAT in the front row while the court routine continued. The 
room buzzed with conversation. J.J. was busy with formalities; 
reporters were leaning over to ask me questions. Through the near-by 
doorway I saw several young men awaiting their sentences like actors 
in the wings listening for their cues. One was propped against the 
wall smoking a cigarette. At the sound of his name he raised his head, 
signifying he had heard, and yet kept on smoking. When it was 
called a second time an attendant shoved him forward roughly. I 
could almost feel the hardening of his soul under this brutal attitude 
and the physical handling. He gave still another puff ; then deliberately 
dropped the stub, stepped on it, and sauntered leisurely forward to 
receive his sentence. 

I was led into an anteroom where other prisoners were being put 
through the regular fingerprinting procedure. I refused; there was 
a definite connection in my mind between admission of guilt and 
fingerprinting ; both in their different ways placed me in the category 
of criminals. My refractoriness was reported to the court. But the 
judges, poor dears, had worn themselves out trying to avoid sending 
me to jail and were exasperated and cross; one more rebellion was 
too much for them. "Don't bother us with that. It's not our job. Take 
her away." 

We were then herded through the rear of the building into an 
open yard where the van was standing. The careless youth who had 

238 



THIS PRISON WHERE I LIVE 239 

answered the court's call with such unconcern was waving farewell 
to friends who loitered Outside. 
"How long, Alf ?" asked one. 
"Five years," and he laughed as he said it. 

Two more boys, their arms fraternally flung across one another's 
shoulders, shouted, "Three !" and, "Four !" consecutively. Were they 
normal? Could liberty be of so little account? The muscles in my 
throat contracted as I pictured the maternal love once spent on their 
infancy, and now the reckless disregard for freedom culminating in 
this ride. Thirty days seemed to me the end of the world, but they 
made light of marking time in life for years, calling this their "sleep- 
ing time." They paid no attention to me; I was entirely out of their 
realm. 

The women huddled beside me were more serious. An hysterical 
and tearful "one-monther" had been obliged to leave her small four- 
year-old son sitting on the veranda watching for her return. She had 
not even been allowed to go back to see him and arrange for his care 
during her absence. 

Some experiences, though unexpected, are nevertheless partially 
anticipated in the subconscious. I had believed fully and firmly that 
some miracle would occur to keep me from going to jail. There had 
been no miracle. The doors banged shut, two blue uniforms stared 
stolidly at each other, the automobile jerked forward. 

The trip to Raymond Street was short. We were ushered into a 
waiting room. A thin-lipped attendant of huge size callously pushed 
one weeping girl through the door. 

"Get ready there, you!" she tossed over her shoulder at me. 
"For what?" 

"For the doctor." I sat still. She repeated, "Do you hear me? Go 
in and get your examination !" 

I resented this attitude with every fiber of my being and replied, 
"I'm not being examined." 

"Ho, you're not? You're one of the fighting kind, are you? Well, 
we'll soon fix you, young lady !" 

She swung her heavy, massive frame out the door, leaving me 
wondering, but quivering with excited determination. I was not sure 
what would happen to me. Within five minutes, however, she came 



24O MARGARET SANGER 

back with an entirely different manner and tone. "Oh, you're Mrs. 
Sanger. It's all right. Come this way, please." 

The next morning I was given a cup of bitter, turbid, lukewarm 
coffee, and then placed inside the van, which set off for the Work- 
house. There all my possessions were taken from me. A long wait. 
The men were sent somewhere and the women somewhere else, I did 
not know where. I just sat. After what seemed hours my belongings 
were returned and a woman in coat and hat told me to follow her. 
I did. A man added himself to our party, and the three of us climbed 
into another van. We were driven some distance down the Island, 
then put into a boat and ferried over to New York. I had no idea 
where we were going. I asked but could elicit no answer. 

We took a street car and after various transfers I caught sight 
of a Loose-Wiles biscuit sign. But it did not help me because I had 
not seen it before; the section was unfamiliar to me. In early after- 
noon we reached the Queens County Penitentiary, Long Island City. 
Evidently the Workhouse authorities had had enough of the Higgins 
family and wanted no more responsibility of this nature. 

Warden Joseph McCann, who met me, was a jovial young Irish- 
man who had risen from the police ranks. "Have you had any lunch?" 
he asked. The cause of his solicitude emerged when he inquired anx- 
iously whether I intended to go on a hunger strike. Remembering 
my morning cup of coffee, I replied, "Not unless your food is too 
bad." He introduced Mrs. Sullivan, the motherly matron. 

I answered the usual interrogatory about where I was born, how 
old I was, etc., etc. When the clerk came to "What religion?" I re- 
plied, "Humanity." He had never heard of this form of belief, and 
rephrased the question. "Well, what church do you go to?" 

"None." 

He looked at me in sharp surprise. All inmates of the penitentiary 
went to church; ninety-eight percent in my corridor had been reared 
as Catholics. 

The prison clothing which I was handed was much like a nurse's 
uniform and did not disturb me. But when I was recalled to the 
warden's office to be fingerprinted, I said flatly I would not submit. 
He sent me back, to my cell. 



THIS PRISON WHERE I LIVE 24 1 

The floor was arranged rather on the order of a hospital ward, 
with little alcoves of ten or fifteen cells running off the gallery. Mine, 
Number 210, was small but clean. I had a bed, toilet, and washstand. 
There was no chair ; I sat on my bunk. 

All the prisoners were at work except Josephine, a German Catholic 
who had lost her husband and three children within a short period. 
She was eager to tell me her story. A few days after they had died, 
she had gone to their graves and covered those of the children with 
blankets to keep them warm. Someone saw her, decided she was in- 
sane, and had her committed to jail. It was a spring day when she 
was let out on parole. She was pleased and happy. A hurdy-gurdy 
was playing her favorite tune, Just As the Sun Went Down. She paid 
the man a nickel to play it over, then another, and another, and an- 
other. The policeman at the corner, hearing it, looked her over and 
arrested her again. During her next ten days in prison she nursed a 
grievance against this injustice and, as soon as she came out, had 
several drinks, went after the policeman, scratched his face, and tore 
his buttons off. 

Thereafter, Josephine drank whenever she could, and each time 
she drank she fought, and, since she had developed a complex against 
policemen, she landed back in jail in short order ; she had been in some 
seventy times. 

I found Josephine a kind, big-hearted person, and, though erratic, 
fairly intelligent. She had a terrible tongue and a terrible temper, 
and undoubtedly had periods when she was of unsound mind. Most 
people were frightened of her. 

She was supposed to put curses on her enemies, and they came true. 
Once a person who had treated her badly and been cursed in conse- 
quence had promptly contracted pneumonia and died. At another time 
the matron of a certain jail had kept her three weeks in a dark cell 
on bread and water. After the fifth day, when bread was handed 
into the hole, she said it tasted like cake it was so sweet. From the 
two or three cups of water daily, she had to assuage her thirst, wash 
her face, and clean her teeth. When she came out of this Stygian 
place she could scarcely see, but she managed to distinguish the matron 
sufficiently to put the curse of God upon her. The next night someone 



242 MARGARET SANGER 

forgot to close the door of the elevator shaft, and the matron walked 
through the open gate, fell to the bottom, and was instantly killed. 
Now, Josephine was let alone. 

In spite of my depression I was intensely interested in Josephine ; 
she begged me to help her, and I said I would try. The rest of that 
afternoon was consumed in this tale of woe until at five o'clock I 
began my initiation into the prison routine of hours and meals. The 
dining room was rilled with long tables and wooden benches. No 
one had a knife or fork — only a tablespoon, edge blunted so as to be 
unserviceable as a weapon. Supper consisted of tea and molasses, 
stewed dried peaches, and two slices of bread which tasted queer ; it 
was said to have saltpeter in it. We were locked in an hour later ; lights 
were out at nine. Bells began ringing at six the next morning, and 
the cells were opened at seven. For breakfast we had oatmeal with 
salt and milk, again two slices of the same bread, and coffee without 
sugar. Dinner was more bread, a boiled potato with the skin half on, 
and a sorry hunk of meat. 

Because of my active tuberculosis the prison doctor soon put me 
on what was called a diet. This meant I could have crackers and milk 
and tea in my cell instead of going to the supper table. Due probably 
to the influence of the Osborne innovations at Sing Sing the men 
at the Queens Penitentiary were better treated than the women. Their 
food was of higher quality and they could buy tobacco and even 
newspapers. The sole reading matter available to women were two 
Catholic weeklies and the Christian Science Monitor. Our only other 
news came from the two visitors a month allowed. So fine a mesh 
screen was placed in the reception room that inmates could with diffi- 
culty distinguish, as through a veil, the features of those to whom 
they were talking. This was a hardship not even imposed at Sing 
Sing. 

After morning cell-cleaning we took a fifteen-minute walk in the 
yard with our hooded capes over our heads. During this cold tramp 
the women scanned the ground avidly for butts of cigarettes tossed 
away by the men. It was tragic to see human beings forced to such 
a low level as to dig with their fingers in the frozen earth to retrieve 
these mangled stubs. Each used to grab her little bit and hide it. 

When the matron went to her lunch we were locked in our cor- 



THIS PRISON WHERE I LIVE 243 

ridors but not in our cells. Ordinarily she took a nap afterwards, 
and the girls could usually count on her not being back until three 
or perhaps four o'clock. This gave them an opportunity to dry their 
shreds of tobacco under the radiator, then wrap them in toilet paper 
ready for smoking. At night when we were all locked in they struck 
the steel ribs from their corsets against the stone floor, and thus 
ignited pieces of cotton to give them lights. I could see tiny glowing 
points in the darkness as they puffed away greedily. 

Somehow, with the ingenuity born of necessity, these women also 
managed to have smuggled in to them occasional small news items. 
The first day one of the girls approached me and in a stage whisper de- 
manded, "Cross your heart and hope to die you won't tell." 

I crossed' my heart and hoped to die. 

She slipped into my hand a short clipping about my trial. Appar- 
ently others had been keeping up with events, because a few minutes 
later Lisa, a little colored girl, called out, "You'se eats, don't yer?" 

A third asked me to explain to them what "sex hygiene" was all 
about. Accordingly I sought permission of Mrs. Sullivan to be al- 
lowed in their corridor during her dinner hour. 

"What for?" 

"The girls want me to tell them about sex hygiene." 

"Ah, gwan wid ye," she laughed. "They know bad enough al- 
ready." 

Some of the most lovely-looking girls were drug addicts. It seemed 
monstrous that the State could take such liberties with human lives 
as to convict them as criminals and sentence them to as much as three 
years for something which should have been considered disease. 

Other women were pickpockets, embezzlers, prostitutes, keepers 
of brothels, "Tiffany," or high-class thieves, accomplices of safe 
blowers, and a few "transatlantic flyers," who assisted in big hauls 
from Paris or London. 

The class snobbishness among the offenders interested me beyond 
words. No one cared how or where another had been reared, what 
kind of family background or education she had; the nature of her 
offense was the key to her social position. The one who picked pockets 
was scorned by the girl who helped herself to pearl or diamond neck- 
laces; the shoplifter did not "sell her body." 



244 MARGARET SANGER 

The prisoners sometimes slid their arms in mine as we paced 
along in the yard. One took me to task. "I saw you walking with 
Gracie. You mustn't associate with her." 

"Why not?" 

"Do you know what she's in here for? She's a petty thief. When- 
ever she gets out she rides in street cars and steals money from the 
pocketbooks of poor people going to pay their rent, or women com- 
ing home with their husbands' wages." 

"And what are you here 'for?" 

"Oh, I steal from the rich; I take only from people who have 
jewelry and bank accounts." 

I never did the regular work of cleaning, not even my own cell. 
Nor was I sent into the workshop to sew or to operate the machines 
with the others. When I asked Mrs. Sullivan why, she replied jollily, 
"Oh, you look better over there with a pen in your hand." 

She had fixed up a table to serve as a desk, and there I sat the 
entire day with my papers and books, planning ahead and reading 
countless letters ; the tenor of all was much like this from Sarah Gold- 
stein : 

The women here in Brownsville need help very bad. Mrs. Sanger 
has got put away in the penitentiary for being friends with us, but 
she said we was to use her place while she was gone. If we can have 
a meeting over here in the clinic, I will put a fire in the stove and ask 
the women to come Saturday. 

We women here want to find out what the President, the Mayor, 
and the Judges and everybody is trying to do. First they put Mrs. 
Sanger in jail for telling us women how not to have any more children, 
and then they get busy for the starve of the ones we've got. First 
they take the meat and the egg, then the potato, the onion, and the 
milk, and now the lentils and the butter, and the children are living 
on bread and tea off the tea leaves that is kept cooking on the back 
of the stove. 

Honest to God, we ought to call a meeting and do something 
about it. 

Part of my time also was devoted to helping some of the girls to 
read or to write the two letters a month permitted them. I had not 
believed that any American-born of sixteen to eighteen years of age 
could be illiterate, but there were at least ten. 



THIS PRISON WHERE I LIVE 245 

I had been in the penitentiary for several days before I noticed a 
tall, erect woman with white hair and a face which obviously did not 
belong there ; I had never seen her in the yard or at table. Although 
she had been over nine months sharing the other prisoners' food and 
working beside them she had not become one of them. Because of 
her aloofness I found it hard to make her acquaintance, but ultimately 
"the Duchess," as she was called, told me her story. 

After having been a teacher for fifteen years, she had married a 
minister who lived on a pension. They stayed in hotels, always spend- 
ing more than their income, while he steadily drew on his insurance 
money. His sudden death left her practically penniless. Due to her 
age and the fact she had not taught for so long her application for 
a teacher's job was refused. She continued in the hotel until she had 
used up everything and was forced to move. Thereafter, she went 
from hotel to hotel, fleeing each time angry looks and bills; finally 
she was arrested and given an indeterminate sentence of from one 
to three years. 

Her constant brooding over her past was not preparing her for 
any future. I suggested she might keep her hand in by instructing 
the illiterate girls, and asked J.J., my only visitor, to have his friend 
William Spinney send some primers and lower grade text-books from 
Henry Holt and Company where he worked; this was done free of 
charge. The Duchess was contentedly happy from the day she began 
teaching again. 

In the desire to learn whether the girls' background might not be 
related to the causes of their imprisonment, I asked Warden McCann 
whether I could see the records, especially as to the size of the families 
from which they came. He said it was against the rules, but he was 
willing to give me such facts separately, assuring me I was going 
to be surprised and disappointed. I was. 

When I inquired, "How many brothers and sisters does Rosie 
have?" the answer was, "None." 

"And Marie?" 

"She had a brother, but he's dead." 

It appeared from the entries that all these women had been single 
children or, if a brother or sister had been born, he or she no longer 
survived. This was difficult to believe, but I had to accept it at first. 



246 MARGARET SANGER 

However, when I became better acquainted with the old-timers 
they told me quite a different history. The registers were merely evi- 
dence of the unwritten rule among them to keep their families out 
of it. 

The madam of a house of assignation was putting her daughter 
of seventeen through a fashionable boarding school. To prevent the 
child from knowing anything about her occupation she wrote letters, 
sent them West, where she was supposed to be traveling, and had them 
redirected to the school. Many other prisoners were mothers also, 
and the scheming and planning to hide the painful knowledge of their 
whereabouts was worthy of the deepest admiration. 

One after another admitted she had given false statements to save 
her relatives from disgrace or constant annoyance by the police. The 
result of a poll of the thirty-one in our corridor showed an average 
of seven children to each girl's family. 

I was always interested to know why the pretty ones were there. 
Frances, one of the loveliest, had a radiant color, rosebud mouth, 
and the most innocent eyes; she even managed to wear her apron 
with a Gallic chic. It did not seem possible she could have committed 
a crime, but she turned out to be one of the rogues who made a prac- 
tice of frequenting gatherings where careless people offered opportu- 
nities to pickpockets. She told me how she, with two other girls, had 
once gone to an up-State fair. After making a grand haul of watches 
and purses and anything they could lay their hands upon, her two com- 
panions said, "We've got enough. We're clearing out." 

But Frances had spotted an easy-looking wallet. It was not quite 
easy enough. Unfortunately for her the owner shouted, "Somebody's 
stolen my money!" 

A bystander pointed, "She did it. I've been in three places today 
where things have been lost, and she's been there every time." 

Other people gathered round. Frances began to cry. Because the 
friends of the man who had been robbed and he himself insisted she 
must be arrested the police were called. 

Frances continued to weep until several lusty young farmers were 
ready to defy her accusers. How could they say such things about 
such a sweet girl! It looked as though a fight were imminent, and 



THIS PRISON WHERE I LIVE 247 

she hoped to slip away during the excitement. But the police arrived 
too soon and took her to the station. They found nothing on her; 
somehow she had rid herself of the wallet. 

Frances' new-found allies were ready to go her bail, but it so hap- 
pened that a police chief from a neighboring town who had come 
to the fair for the express purpose of identifying possible petty crimi- 
nals recognized her from his sheaf of photographs of habitual offend- 
ers. He said to her supporters, "Boys, you're crazy. This girl's as 
crooked as a snake. Here's her picture !" 

"Why, you're crazy yourself ! Your girl's a blonde, and this one's 
dark." 

The chief snatched at Frances' hair, and off came her wig. As she 
told me this great joke on herself she shook with merriment. 

But this was not the end of the story. The station captain had been 
influenced by her attractiveness and, since the wallet had not actually 
been discovered on her, wanted to let her off. He made a compromise. 
"I'm going to give you a ticket to Montreal. You either go to jail 
or take it and get out." 

She accepted the ticket, but left the train at a near-by point and 
rejoined her friends at another fair. There, wearing a different cos- 
tume, she continued her trade. Although to look at her ingenuous 
face I could hardly believe it, pitting her wits against the police was 
to her a type of game. 

Gertrude had been equally clever. She was of German origin, very 
stylish, moving in good circles when not in prison. She had learned 
that the officers of the submarine, Deutschland, which had just 
crossed the ocean, were to be entertained at a party. Having secured 
an invitation, she devoted herself to a lieutenant who, she had dis- 
covered, was carrying seven hundred dollars in his pocket. When 
the gathering broke up she took him back to his hotel in her car, 
suggesting they stop at a night club en route. There she put a drug 
in his glass. It took a bit of time to work, but after they had started 
on again he fell asleep. She gave five dollars to the doorman to take 
him to his room, saying he had drunk a bit too much, and then went 
home. 

At seven the following morning, while Gertrude and her little girl 



248 MARGARET SANGER 

were still in bed, the police raided her apartment. They could unearth 
nothing except what she could honestly account for. Her effects were 
turned upside down, and still no money was to be found. 

"Then how could they send you to jail?" I queried. "You didn't 
take it, did you ?" 

"Of course I did," she asserted, looking at me as if I were dull- 
witted. "They couldn't pin it on me, that's all." 

Even though Gertrude had been brighter than the police, she, like 
many of the others, had been convicted on her past record and the 
present suspicious circumstances. 

Josephine was another case in point. After I myself had been re- 
leased I had her paroled under her own recognizance and secured a 
place for her as chambermaid in a hotel. Fate so arranged that in 
the very first room she entered on her first morning's work she was 
confronted with the corpse of a man who had died in his bed during 
the night. She rushed out immediately, got drunk, and went directly 
back to jail again. 

The resentment thus engendered in these caged women was like 
a strong, glowing flame, of a depth that I scarcely had believed pos- 
sible. The shivers ran up and down my back when I heard the details 
of their unguided and loveless childhoods, which explained in large 
part the curious manner in which their minds worked. They thought 
only in terms of getting away with their crimes, of beating the system 
— although their presence here was proof that it could not be beaten. 
Three of the younger girls, too old for Bedford Reformatory but 
almost too young for the penitentiary, definitely shocked me with 
their plans for wrong-doing without being apprehended. They asked 
me about my case. "Was it true the judge gave you a chance not to 
go to jail if you'd promise not to break the law?" 

"Yes." 

"Well, why didn't you do it?" 

"I couldn't promise that." 

"But you didn't have to keep your promise!" 

The ever-present bitterness arose, not from being caught in the 
act, but from being convicted without having been, according to their 
own belief, proved guilty. It was the woeful mental attitude rather 
than the actual physical condition of their imprisonment which so 



THIS PRISON WHERE I LIVE 249 

appalled me. Not one of them intended to go straight. They hated the 
police who were drawing good salaries from the State and getting 
credit for putting them in jail ; yet all the time they had been smarter. 
This sounds inconsistent, but it was their peculiar psychological twist. 

I talked it over later with several judges to whom it was rather 
a new point of view. Among other cases I cited that of a brothel 
keeper who conducted her house as a club and did it so carefully that 
no evidence could be obtained against her. Therefore, a detective had 
put opium in the plumbing and she had been sentenced on a narcotic 
charge, although it was well known this was not her offense. 

"The prisoners were guilty, weren't they?" said one of the judges. 
"You know that, don't you?" 

"Yes," I rejoined, "but to my mind that doesn't end the State's 
responsibility. It seems to me your detectives should be more intel- 
ligent than the criminals they are set to catch." 

The girls at Queens Penitentiary were unaware they were entitled 
to bring a far more serious charge against society than clumsy and 
inept police methods. I have never since visited an institution for 
juvenile offenders without thinking how stupid people are not to 
recognize that most adolescents are subjected to temptation on some 
occasion or other; that anyone, in an emotional fragment of time, 
when young and when the consequences are not clear, may do some 
forbidden thing. More often than not it is merely incidental, and in 
no way warrants a life of penance. 

The only brutal treatment I received was during the last two hours. 
Since my fingerprints had not been taken on arrival, Warden McCann 
first tried to talk me into compliance. His argument that all prisoners' 
prints must be on file, that not having them was unheard of, got us 
nowhere. I refused to submit, even though it postponed my release. 
He then turned me over to two keepers. One held me, the other strug- 
gled with my arms, trying to force my fingers down on the inkpad. I 
do not know from what source I drew my physical strength, but I 
managed to prevent my hands from touching it. My arms were bruised 
and I was weak and exhausted when an officer at headquarters, where 
J. J. was protesting against the delay, telephoned an order to discharge 
me without the usual ceremony. 

March 6, 191 7, dawned a bitter, stinging morning. Through the 



25O MARGARET SANGER 

metal doors I stepped, and the tingling air beat against my face. No 
other experience in my life has been like that. Gathered in front were 
my old friends who had frozen through the two hours waiting to 
celebrate "Margaret's coming out party." They lifted their voices in 
the Marseillaise. Behind them at the upper windows were my new 
friends, the women with whom I had spent the month, and they too 
were singing. Something choked me. Something still chokes me when- 
ever I hear that triumphant music and ringing words, "Ye sons of 
freedom wake to glory !" 

I plunged down the stairs and into the car which stood ready for 
me, and we swept out of the yard towards my apartment. At the en- 
trance were Vito, the coal man, and his wife, beaming and proudly 
pointing to the blazing fire they had made on the hearth to welcome 
me home. 



Chapter Twenty 



A STOUT HEART TO A STEEP HILL 



"When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases 
to be a subject of interest." 

WILLIAM HAZLITT 



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THE noisy clamor of the world could not reach me through thick 
stone walls ; prison had been a quiet interim for reflection, for 
assembling past experiences and preparing for the future. The tem- 
pestuous season of agitation — courts and jails and shrieking and 
thumbing-the-nose — should now end. Heretofore there had been much 
notoriety and but little understanding. The next three steps were to 
be: first, education; then, organization; and, finally, legislation. All 
were clearly differentiated, though they necessarily overlapped to a 
certain extent. 

I based my program on the existence in the country of a forceful 
sentiment which, if co-ordinated, could become powerful enough to 
change laws. Horses wildly careering around a pasture have as much 
-strength as when harnessed to a plow, but only in the latter case can 
the strength be measured and turned to some useful purpose. The pub- 
lic had to be educated before it could be organized and before the laws 
could be changed as a result of that organization. I set myself to the 
task. It was to be a long one, because the press did not want articles 
stating the facts of birth control ; they wanted news,, and to them news 
still consisted of fights, police, arrests, controversy. 

One of the early essays in education was a moving picture drama- 
tizing the grim and woeful life of the East Side. Both Blossom and I 
believed it would have value, and I continue to be of the same mind. 
He had not approved of the clinic and had declined to have anything 
to do with it, but was eager to join me in capitalizing on the ensuing 

251 



252 MARGARET SANGER 

publicity. Together we wrote a scenario of sorts, concluding with the 
trial. Although I had long since lost faith in my abilities as an actress, 
I played the part of the nurse, and an associate of Blossom's financed 
its production. But before it could appear Commissioner of Licenses 
George H. Bell ordered it suppressed. 

To prove the film mirrored conditions which called for birth con- 
trol, we gave a private showing at a theater, inviting some two hundred 
people concerned with social welfare. All agreed the public should see 
it, and signed a letter to that effect. Justice Nathan Bijur issued an 
injunction against interfering with its presentation. The moving pic- 
ture theaters, however, fearful lest the breath of censure wither their 
profits, were too timid to take advantage of this. 

Of infinitely greater and more lasting significance than this venture 
was the Birth Control Review, which, from 191 7 to 1921, was the 
spearhead in the educational stage. It could introduce a quieter and 
more scientific tone, and also enable me to keep in touch with people 
everywhere whose interest had already been evoked. Emotion was not 
enough; ideas were not enough; facts were what we needed so that 
leaders of opinion who were articulate and willing to speak out might 
have authoritative data to back them up. 

The first issue of the Review, prepared beforehand, had come out 
in February, 191 7, while I was in the penitentiary. It was not a very 
good magazine then ; it had few contributors and no editorial policy. 
Anyone — sculptor, spiritualist, cartoonist, poet, free lances — could ex- 
press himself here ; the pages were open to all. In some ways it was 
reminiscent of the old days of the Woman Rebel, when everybody 
used to lend a hand — always with this vital difference, that we held 
strictly to education instead of agitation. I had learned a little editorial 
knowledge from my previous magazine efforts and now obtained a 
more professional touch from the newspaper men and women who 
gradually came in, among them William E. Williams, formerly of the 
Kansas City Star, Walter A. Roberts, who later published the few 
issues of the American Parade, and Rob Parker, editor and make-up 
man. Among the associates were Jessie Ashley, Mary Knoblauch, and 
Agnes Smedley. 

That extraordinarily shy and mysterious woman, Agnes Smedley, 
had been born in a covered wagon of squatter parents, and, though she 



A STOUT HEART TO A STEEP HILL 253 

had become a teacher in the California public schools, her early habits 
of thought remained with her ; she was consistently for the under dog. 
The British Government had suspected her of connection with the 
seditious activities of a group of Hindu students and persuaded the 
Federal authorities to investigate. All they had been able to find on 
which to charge her were a few copies of Family Limitation. This 
brought her within our province, and when she was arraigned in New 
York John Haynes Holmes procured her ten-thousand-dollar bail. 
After her acquittal she worked with us at various times until she left 
for post-War Germany. 

On this and other occasions John Haynes Holmes, a speaker second 
to none, brought the convincing force of his arguments and mind to 
our aid. By the shape of his head and the honesty of his eyes you could 
recognize the practical idealist in this Unitarian minister. He never 
straddled issues. During the War he said if one flag were to be hung 
out his church windows, then those of all nations should be flown; 
no peoples were enemies of his. 

Two numbers of the Review had appeared when the United States 
entered the War and Blossom and I fell out. He was an ardent Franco- 
phile and, like most masculine members of the intelligentsia, threw in 
his lot with the Allies. I wrote a pacifist editorial ; he refused to run 
it and resigned. 

To Blossom, as to so many others, pacifism was automatically la- 
beled pro-Germanism, on the old theory that "he who is not for me 
is against me." I had already seen in Europe what propaganda could 
do to build up a war spirit, and prayed every morning when I awoke 
that I could keep my head clear and cool. I had heard the plaintive 
pleas of French mothers, but had talked also with German mothers. 
In the hearts of none had there been hatred or desire for their sons 
to kill other sons. 

I knew what I thought about the War ; it was so outrageous I would 
not be mixed up in it. I still believe it was not only a dreadful thing 
in itself — a slaughter and waste of human life — but, even more dis- 
astrous, it exterminated those who ought now to be ruling our na- 
tional destinies according to the pre- War liberality of thought in which 
they had been reared. We started at that time to walk backwards in- 
stead of forwards, and have retreated steadily ever since. A fear of 



254 MARGARET SANGER 

expressing opinions which then began to seep in has gradually helped 
to impose censorship and further intolerance. 

I was neither pro-Ally nor pro-German but, using common sense, 
was distressed at seeing German achievements torn into shreds. In- 
telligence in Germany had been focused on all fronts; she had the 
lowest illiteracy of any country and had invested heavily in mass edu- 
cation from which the rest of the world was benefiting at little cost. 
She had offered the best training for graduate students in medicine ; 
foreign travel had been accelerated by German linguists; commerce 
had been able to carry on international contacts through German inter- 
preters ; any foreign industry which had needed technical advice had 
usually employed a German scientist, engineer, or chemist who knew 
how to do his job and do it well. Germany could not continue this 
policy without wanting to receive some tangible return. 

I was convinced the primary cause of this war lay in the terrific 
pressure of population in Germany. To be sure, her birth rate had 
recently begun to decline, but her death rate, particularly infant mor- 
tality, had, through applied medical science, likewise been brought 
far down. The German Government had to do something about the 
increase of her people. Underneath her rampant militarism, under- 
neath her demand for colonies was this drivings economic force. She 
could hold no more, and had to burst her bounds. 

Blossom's defection was one of the heart-breaking things that can 
creep into any endeavor, even the most idealistic. I have seen so many 
young crusaders come galloping to show me the way, joining the 
procession and blowing horns for "The Cause," panting with en- 
thusiasm to reform the world, willing to teach me how to put the 
movement on a "social" or "sound practical and economic" basis. 
They were going to get vast contributions so that money would roll 
unceasingly into our coffers. But if they lacked the necessary patience 
and forbearance, or were there for personal aggrandizement, they 
became discouraged at the first show of thorny, disagreeable ob- 
stacles, retreating or deserting rather than fighting through. 

In the birth control movement supporters have come and gone. 
When they remained they found work, work, work, and little recog- 
nition, reward, or gratitude. Those who desired honor or recompense, 



A STOUT HEART TO A STEEP HILL 255 

or who measured their interest by this yardstick, are no longer here. 
It is no place for anything except the boundless love of giving. Blos- 
som was the first illustration to me that the ones to whom authority 
is handed over are likely to expand and explode unless they have self- 
lessly dedicated themselves. 

.Now, I believe the three chief tests to character are sudden power, .j 
sudden wealtlj, and sudden publicity. Few can stand the latter ; nothing 
goes to the head with more violence. Seeing this all around me, I did 
not subscribe to a clipping bureau until it seemed necessary for his- 
torical purposes. I did not even read the papers when unsought ad- 
vertisement was great, remembering that this could be but a nine 
days' wonder. Furthermore, news items were often distracting be- 
cause the facts were constantly embroidered just to make a good story, 
to paint a situation according to the policy of the paper, or because 
they reflected the inhibitions of the reporters. Hours could have been 
entirely given over to denials and contradictions. 

In the midst of any emergency such as a police raid or the stopping 
of a meeting my own emotions generally kept an even tenor ; they did 
not go hopping up and down like a temperature. A nurse cannot afford 
to lose her head, and the control I had won in that training helped 
me, as did also my father's philosophy, "Since all things change, this 
too will pass." 

Consequently, during this feverish period, neither public praise nor 
public blame affected me very much, although the type of criticism 
that came from friends was different. Just because they were friends 
and I wanted them to understand, I was unhappy if they did not. But, 
since persons one likes can have great influence and friendships take 
time, I refrained from making many new ones. Nevertheless, those 
I had then are as good today; when we meet we pick up the threads 
where we dropped them. 

The War halted the progress of the birth control movement tem- 
porarily. The groups that had before been active now found new in- 
terests. The radicals were convulsed and their own ranks torn in two 
by the opposition to conscription. Influenza swept over the world and 
in its passage took off many of our old companions. Governor Whit- 
man's promised commission blew up. One bright bugle sounded when 



256 MARGARET SANGER 

I learned that the section on venereal disease in What Every Girl 
Should Know, which had once been banned in the New York Call and 
for which Fania had been fined, was now, officially but without credit, 
reprinted and distributed among the soldiers going into cantonments 
and abroad. At home all felt there was little to do but wait until people 
came back to their senses ; the Review was the only forward step I 
could take at the time. 

Late in 191 7 a new recruit was enlisted. Nobody ever knew Kitty 
Marion's true name. She had been born in Westphalia, Germany, and 
when she was fifteen her father had whipped her once too often and 
she had run away to England, where eventually she had headed a turn 
at a music hall. 

The London slums had aroused Kitty's social conscience, and she 
had abandoned her own career to enroll with Mrs. Pankhurst in the 
suffrage crusade, becoming one of the most determined of her fol- 
lowers. When put in jail she set fire to her cell, chewed a hole in her 
mattress, broke the window, and upon being released threw bricks 
at Newcastle Post Office. Seven times she went to prison, enduring 
four hunger strikes and two hundred and thirty-two compulsory feed- 
ings, biting the hand that forcibly fed her. Since it was distasteful to 
the Government to have any suffragette die in prison, Kitty, under the 
so-called Cat-and-Mouse Act, was once released to a nursing home 
until she should have strength enough to return to confinement. Friends 
visited her there, exchanged clothes with her, and she escaped. On an- 
other occasion the Bishop of London personally begged her to give up 
her struggle. At the outbreak of war, the Pankhurst forces hustled her 
over to America rather than have her run the almost certain risk of 
deportation or internment. 

Selling The Suffragette on the streets of London had been part of 
the initiation which duchesses and countesses and other noble aux- 
iliaries to the Pankhurst cause had had to undergo. Kitty had stood 
side by side with them. Since we had so experienced a veteran ready 
for service we began to offer the Review on the sidewalks of New 
York. Our more sober supporters objected because they considered it 
undignified. But men and women from here, there, and everywhere 
passed through the commercial centers of New York, and this was a 
real means of reaching them. 



A STOUT HEART TO A STEEP HILL 257 

All of us took a hand, but Kitty was the only one who stood the test 
of years. Strong, stoutish, tow-headed, her blue eyes bright and keen 
in spite of being well on in her fifties, she became a familiar sight. 
Morning, afternoon, and until midnight — workdays, Sundays, and 
holidays — through storms of winter and summer, she tried every 
street corner from Macy's to the Grand Central Terminal. But her 
favorite stand was Seventh Avenue and Forty-second Street, right 
at Times Square. In her own words she was enjoying "the most fas- 
cinating, the most comic, the most tragic, living, breathing movie in 
the world." 

Many people still think I must be Kitty Marion. Everywhere they 
say to me, "I saw you twenty years ago outside the Metropolitan 
Opera House. You've changed so I wouldn't know you." 

Street selling was torture for me, but I sometimes did it for self- 
discipline and because only in this way could I have complete knowl- 
edge of what I was asking others to do. In addition, I learned to realize 
what possible irritations Kitty had to encounter. Notwithstanding the 
insults of the ignorant, the censure of the bigots, she remained good- 
humored. They said to her, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself, 
you ought to be arrested, to be shot, to be in jail, to be hanged !" or, 
"It's disgraceful, disgusting, scandalous, villainous, criminal, and un- 
ladylike !" When someone asked, "Have you never heard God's word 
to 'be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth' ?" Kitty replied, 
"They've done that already," and, knowing her Apocrypha as well as 
her Bible, retorted in kind, "Does it not say in Ecclesiasticus : 16; I, 
'Desire not a multitude of unprofitable children' ?" 

During the War it was astonishing how many men, in and out of 
uniform, mistook Birth Control for British Control. "We don't want 
no British Control here !" they exclaimed. Kitty would correct them, 
"Birth Control," and someone would call, "Oh, that's worse!" 

Who bought the Review? This question was invariably asked, and 
the answer was — radicals, the curious, girls about to be married, 
mothers, fathers, social workers, ministers, physicians, reformers, rev- 
olutionaries, foreigners. A psychological analysis of reactions of 
passers-by when they saw the words "birth control" would have been 
interesting. I never could credit the power those simple words had of 
upsetting so many people. Their own complexes as to what sex meant 



*\ 



258 MARGARET SANGER 

to them appeared to govern them. Many were disappointed at its staid- 
ness ; some were highly indignant, others highly amused, regarding it 
as a joke ; some bought with the set faces of soldiers going over the top ; 
some looked and looked and then strolled on. Others walked by only to 
return with the money ready, hastily stuff the magazine in their pock- 
ets, and move away, trying to seem unconcerned. The majority bought 
with the utmost seriousness in the hope that it might solve their per- 
sonal problems. 

"Jail" was the instant reaction of every new policeman on the beat. 
Kitty, who knew she needed no license, would contest the point with 
him while a crowd gathered. But few of her arresters were familiar 
with the law in the name of which they hauled her off to the station. 
Time and again my night's slumbers were broken to go and bail her 
out. J.J. was always able to have the case dismissed, but only after it 
had been argued and proved in our favor. 

Once Charles Bamberger, the agent provocateur of the Society for 
the Suppression of Vice who had brought about Bill Sanger's arrest, 
worked much the same ruse on Kitty. His society was supposedly de- 
signed to promote purity, which was to its members synonymous with 
good. But in order to do this they induced people to break the law by 
appealing to their deepest human sympathies, a form of trickery not 
to be condoned by any moral code. 

Bamberger, on repeated visits to Kitty at our office, poignantly de- 
scribed the condition of his unfortunate wife whose health depended 
absolutely on her getting contraceptive information. Anna's sense, 
like Fania Mindell's, was unfailing in recognizing such decoys; I 
never went against it. But in vain did she warn Kitty, who gave him 
the information. He had her arrested, and she was not allowed to tell 
in court the means by which he had obtained his evidence ; she had to 
serve a term. Kitty's sentence did not have adequate publicity, but 
so violent was the war temper, that, in view of her German birth, even 
well-disposed newspapers practically ignored it. 

In addition to selling the Review we tried another experiment in 
street propaganda. During the warm evenings of one summer Kitty, 
Helen Todd, and I, often accompanied by George Swazey, a friendly 
Englishman, proceeded to the neighborhood of St. Nicholas Avenue 



A STOUT HEART TO A STEEP HILL 259 

above 125th Street, where many white collar families lived. We used 
to buy a soapbox at the nearest delicatessen and Helen, who had a 
lank, swarthy picturesqueness which attracted attention, mounted it ; 
Swazey, standing behind, held aloft an American flag. Though not a 
soul might be in sight except our little group with its bundles of litera- 
ture and Kitty with her Reviews, Helen began in her beautiful voice, 
"Ladies and Gentlemen," bowing to the trees, "we welcome you here 
tonight." When nobody appeared she began again. "Ladies and Gentle- 
men," and this time one or two strollers usually lingered. Imme- 
diately we raised our pasteboard banners with "birth control" printed 
in black letters. She was off in full swing, and in a few minutes we had 
our audience. 

In the course of our various trials people had sent checks and made 
donations to the special Defense Fund account, and we sent anybody 
who gave money, no matter how much or how little, a mimeographed 
report of all contributors. We had also accepted almost two thousand 
paid-in-advance subscriptions, and had therefore incurred an obliga- 
tion to continue the Review for twelve months. 

One May morning when I put my key in the office door and swung 
it open, Anna Lifshiz and I stood and gazed at each other. Only the 
telephone perched forlornly on top of a packing box relieved the bare 
and empty room — files, furniture, vouchers, checks, and business rec- 
ords were gone. We still had to supply the subscribers with nine issues 
more, yet we had no equipment and not one cent in the bank account 
of the Review. 

It was a challenge. We hurried over to Third Avenue and for 
twenty dollars refurnished the office. The loss of the contributors' 
cards, however, was irreparable. I could never, in spite of my best 
efforts, recover either them or the missing funds. 

The strain to finance the Review was so great that after June no 
more issues came out until December — the printer trusted us as far 
as he was able from month to month. Often the bank account was 
down to the last hundred dollars, just enough to hold it open. Yet it 
might be necessary to mail letters'; the call might be urgent. I was 
hesitant to spend that last amount, but I believed faith could bring 
anything to realization. Invariably when I operated on that principle 



260 MARGARET SANGER 

and did what I was impelled to do, money poured in perhaps ten times 
over. Always we cleaned the slate at the end of the year. 

This was one of the periods of getting roots in and waiting for the 
organism to grow, of quiescence before the new beginning and quick- 
ening. I kept going, conscious that with every act I was progressing in 
accord with a universal law of evolution — moral evolution but evolu- 
tion just the same. 

This belief seemed at times to force locked doors. It enabled me to 
dictate hundreds of letters, to interview dozens of people, to debate, 
or to lecture, all in twenty- four hours. Day after day I attended parlor 
meetings, night after night open forums, returning home too tired to 
eat, too excited to sleep. Frequently at seven in the morning the tele- 
phone started ringing ; somebody wanted to catch me before I left the 
house. 

For the purpose of having a more solid and substantial basis on 
which to operate the Review, the New York Women's Publishing 
Company was incorporated in May, 19 18; shares were sold at ten 
dollars each. The women who gave both monetary and moral support 
were the wives of business men who advised them how to conduct 
this organization in the proper fashion. Each month Mary Knoblauch 
opened her charming apartment for the regular meetings any cor- 
poration was required to hold. 

The movement can never be disassociated in my mind from Frances 
Ackermann, who, at the suggestion of Mabel Spinney of Greenwich 
House, came to us as Treasurer. She was exceptionally able and was 
soon one of our bulwarks, remaining with us eleven years. Her family 
was wrapped up in orthodoxy — church and Wall Street and the status 
quo in politics — but Frances' interests were much broader, and she was 
not content to lead the usual type of life ordained by her social and 
financial standing. 

Tall, very thin, wearing her clothes with an air, Frances was one of 
the finest persons I have ever known. To her, fair play amounted to a 
religion ; she was so highly sensitive that she lay awake at night after 
merely reading of an injustice done to anybody. To hundreds of con- 
scientious objectors who were incarcerated during the War because 
of pacifist or strike activities she sent cigarette money, magazines, 
stationery — always anonymously — assisting their families and sug- 



A STOUT HEART TO A STEEP HILL 26 1 

gesting plans for their own futures. Her death was not only a blow 
to us but a blow to any endeavor that was seeking understanding. 
Many lifers who depended on her for brightening luxuries must now 
wonder what has become of her. 

In 1920 Anne Kennedy came to help boost the circulation of the 
Review and gain further financial aid for it. She, was a Calif ornian 
with wide club experience, and had two children. Fair, in her thir- 
ties, cheerful, and a good mixer, she was most maternal-looking 
with her soft gray hair and sweet face ; you felt you could lay your 
head on her bosom and tell her the story of your life. 

The incorporation had heralded a new trend wherein we could 
have a recognized policy. When the Review had first been started I had 
had to beg authors to write. Free speech was their favorite theme, 
and their pieces were inferior, but they were the only things I could 
fall back upon. I used to ask possible contributors, "Don't you agree 
that these poor mothers should have no more babies ?" 

"Of course, but where's there any article in that?" 

Then I had to suggest ideas, show them how to link these up 
with larger sociological aspects, until they began to cast into the 
arena legal, medical, eugenic compositions. The material on free 
speech continued to come in, but we did not need to print it any longer. 

Incidentally, we now secured second-class mailing privileges. Soon 
afterwards I happened to be talking to a cousin who worked in the 
Post Office, a very young boy in his early twenties, who kept assailing 
me with questions about the Review. I could not understand his un- 
precedented interest, and asked, "Why are you so curious ?" 

"Well, I'm the official reader. It'll save my having to wade through 
every issue if you'll tell me ahead of time just what your policy's 
going to be." 

"Do you make the decisions?" 

"That's my job. If any seem objectionable I send them on to Wash- 
ington." 

I was horrified to find this adolescent in a position which permitted 
him to pass judgment on such serious matters, but I was able to re- 
assure him ; the course we had adopted would in no way interfere with 
retaining our second-class mailing privileges. 

Many of the buyers of the Review had been disappointed because 



262 MARGARET SANGER 

it contained no practical information. "I have your magazine. All in 
there is true but what I want to know is how not to have another baby 
next year." Thousands of letters were sent out explaining that the 
Review could not print birth control information. Nevertheless, some 
of the appeals, particularly from women who lived on lonely, remote 
farms, were so heart-rending that I simply had to furnish them copies 
of Family Limitation, though urging them to go to their physicians. 

Every once in a while I had a telephone message to come down to 
the Post Office at an appointed hour. I did so, wondering and un- 
certain. Was the interview to be about the Review, Family Limitation, 
or what ? 

The official in the legal department whom I always saw, fatherly 
though not old, used to say, "Now, Mrs. Sanger, you're still violating 
the law by sending your pamphlet through the mails. If you keep this 
up they'll put you in jail again." 

I objected, "The Government and I had this out years ago. The 
Federal case was dismissed." 

"It never can be settled while we get these protests." 

To prove the Post Office was not having such an easy time of it, he 
pulled open a drawer and inside was a little pile of pamphlets and 
letters from religious fanatics, self -constituted moralists of one kind 
or another, women as well as men, who had received their copies and 
then complained. He showed me envelopes addressed to the Governor 
of New York, to the President of the United States. I studied the 
handwriting to see whether I could recognize it as identical with any 
that had come to me. Perhaps the postmark was Wichita, Kansas; 
there could not be many from a town of that size, and presently I re- 
membered the request. It was a shattering thing to see that drawer. 
I had been earnestly trying to aid despairing mothers, and had been 
betrayed. 

"Here's this proof against you, Mrs. Sanger. What are you going 
to do about it?" 

"Nothing. As long as these women ask me to help them, I'm going 
to do so." 

I intended to continue to the limit of my resources whether or not 
I had help from those whom I had originally counted upon. In order 
to make women's clubs feel the need as I did I had often gone miles 



A STOUT HEART TO A STEEP HILL 263 

at my own expense to present a topic that had taken me years to 
prepare and then had had to express it to the accompaniment of the 
clatter of dishes or the stirring of spoons in after-dinner coffees. The 
members had seemed to have their minds on hot rolls or had been 
fidgeting to get on to the bridge tables. Sometimes a few, who had 
come to dabble in sentimentality, had experienced a pleasant emotional 
response, "Oh, the poor things," but that had been as far as it had 
gone. 

The continued apathy of such organizations disappointed me in- 
tensely ; the desire to build up a structure appeared to dominate them 
all. I had lost faith in their sincerity, respect for their courage, and at 
this time had no reason to anticipate assistance from them. To upbraid, 
accuse, or censure them for not doing what I had hoped was useless, 
but I resolved that I was never again going to talk to them, and, when 
it seemed necessary that they be addressed, I sent others to do it. 

My nervousness ahead of lectures continued to be akin to illness. 
All through the years it has been like a nightmare even to think of a 
pending speech. I promised enthusiastically to go here or there, and 
then tried to forget it. The morning it was to be delivered I awakened 
with a panicky feeling which grew into a sort of terror if I allowed 
myself to dwell on it. It was fatal to eat before a meeting. 

Some people can keep an audience rocking with laughter and yet 
get over a message. But I cannot. Seldom do my hearers have any- 
thing merry from me. Advisers often say, "Lighten up your subject." 
I have always resented this ; I am the protagonist of women who have 
nothing to laugh at. 

Heywood Broun once remarked that I had no sense of humor. I 
was surprised at him, but I could understand his statement in a way ; 
he had been at only a few meetings as chairman and I had been seri- 
ous to the point of deadliness, purposely bringing forth laborious facts 
and dramatic statistics. I was grasping at an opportunity to reach his 
audience because, whenever he was moved by anything deeply, he 
wrote a story in his column which by reason of its effective irony 
and smooth prose swayed others to the same extent. 

I have had much fun, although it may have penetrated only to the 
intimate circle of friends. Once after giving what I thought was a 
very up-to-date, spirited talk at the Waldorf-Astoria, a dear old lady, 



264 MARGARET SANGER 

at least in her middle eighties, tottered towards me with the aid of a 
cane and in trembling voice quavered, "I have traveled across the 
country to hear you speak, Miss Sangster. My mother used to read 
your poems to me when I was a little girl, and I feel this is a great 
day for me to be able to clasp your hand." She had confused me with 
the poetess, Margaret E. Sangster, who in the mid-Nineteenth Century 
had been a regular contributor to religious magazines. 

L Inevitably I have been constantly torn between my compulsion to do 
this work and a haunting feeling that I was robbing my children of 
time to which they were entitled. Back in 19 13 I had had some vague 
notion of being able to spend all my summers with them at Province- 
town. That visionary hope had been immediately dissipated because 
too many painters began to discover it and the place became littered 
with easels and smocks. Gene O'Neill's plays were being produced on 
the wharf opposite Mary Heaton Vorse's house, and these brought 
many more people. I wanted to get away even further, and so did Jack 
Reed, who had also sought sanctuary there. A real estate agent took 
him to near-by Truro where the feet of New Yorkers had not yet trod, 
and I was invited to come along. We saw a little house on a little hill, 
one of the most ancient in the village. Below it the Pamet River wound 
like a silver ribbon to the ocean. An old sea captain had squared and 
smoothed and fitted the timbers, brought them up from the Carolinas 
in a sailing vessel, and fastened them tightly together with wooden 
pegs. The kitchen was bright and warm, and seemed as though many 
cookies and pies had been baked in it. 

Jack bought the cottage, but he was never able to live there. As a 
staff correspondent of the Metropolitan Magazine he was dashing 
from the Colorado Fuel and Iron strike to the European War and 
back again to New York. In 191 7, knowing I, too, had looked at it 
with longing eyes, he asked whether I would like to buy it;Jie was 
starting for Russia the next day and had to have ready money. By a 
lucky chance I had just received a check for a thousand dollars in pay- 
ment for some Chicago lectures. We exchanged check and deed. He 
left the next day for the land of promise whither Bill Haywood, his 
friend, had already gone and whence neither was to return. 

Big Bill, who had steadily advocated resistance to conscription, had 
been arrested and freed on bail furnished by Jessie Ashley. She had 



A STOUT HEART TO A STEEP HILL 265 

forfeited it gladly to have him safely out of the country. I had had a 
long talk with him before he had made up his mind definitely to leave. 
The conversation brought back to me the picture of the times he and 
I had walked up and down the Cape Cod sands and he had given me 
such good counsel about not jeopardizing the happiness of the children. 

Those who had opposed Bill for his "hands in the pocket" advice 
at the Paterson strike were the same who were opposing his jumping 
his bail. Since the day we had together visited the C.G.T. meetings in 
Paris, Bill had come to see the virtues of expediency ; that, rather than 
languish in jail where he could accomplish no useful purpose, a revolu- 
tionary should, if he could, exile himself. "He who fights and runs 
away, will live to fight another day." This, according to the American 
idea, was cowardice — you should stay and be a martyr. But to Bill 
it was now merely shortsighted. He had concluded that the average 
worker when he went in for rioting and hand-to-hand combat was 
beaten before he had begun. He realized the workers had been split by 
the War ; they had not united and stood up against conscription with 
any backbone. They could not as yet be depended upon as a force, but 
some day he hoped to return and reorganize them. 

Truro provided the children with three carefree months every 
summer in what still seems to me one of the most beautiful spots in the 
world. For several years I hung on to this dream of being with them 
constantly, but it was only a dream. I used to go down to open the 
house and perhaps snatch a week or so there before being obliged to 
hurry back, but father and my sister Nan were good foster-parents. 
This house was eventually to burn as had the one in Hastings ; fate 
seemed to decree I should not be tempted to slip back into peaceful 
domesticity. 

Nor did I have all those hoped for years of watching the boys 
grow from one stage to another. I had had to analyze the situation 
— either to keep them at home under the supervision of servants who 
might perhaps be incompetent, and to have no more than the pleas- 
ure of seeing them safely to bed, or else to sacrifice my maternal 
feelings and put them in country schools directed by capable masters 
where they could lead a healthy, regular life. Having come to this latter 
decision I sent them off fairly young, and thereafter could only visit 
them over week-ends or on the rare occasions when I was speaking in 



266 MARGARET SANGER 

the vicinity. If the desire to see them grew beyond control, I took the 
first train and received the shock of finding them thoroughly contented 
in the companionship they had made for themselves ; after the initial 
excitement of greeting had passed away they ran off again to their 
games. 

At times the homesickness for them seemed too much to bear ; espe- 
cially was this true in the Fourteenth Street studio. When I came in 
late at night the fire was dead in the grate, the book open on the table, 
the glove dropped on the floor, the pillow rumpled on the sofa — all the 
same — just as I had left them a day, a week, or a month before. That 
first chill of loneliness was always appalling. I wanted, as a child does, 
to be like other people ; I wanted to be able to sink gratefully into the 
warmth and glow of a loving family welcome. 

The winter of 191 7-18 was particularly hard; the snow drifted 
high and lasted long, and it took forced cheer to keep your spirits up. 
Dr. Mary Halton assured me that with ceaseless financial worry, in- 
adequate rest, incessant traveling, improper nourishment, I could not 
survive long. When, therefore, a publisher asked me for a book on 
labor problems, I snatched ten-year-old Grant out of school and set 
off for California, taking a small place at Coronado where I sat myself 
down for three months to write and to get acquainted with my son. 

I loved the sunshine. It was a pleasure to be out-of-doors, to have 
peace and quiet and the leisure to arrange my thoughts and put them 
on paper. I had no inclination towards a labor book, but thoroughly 
enjoyed letting loose my pent-up feelings on Woman and the New 
Race. It was good to classify reasons and set them in order. My opin- 
ions did emerge, and it was a great release. 

I was vividly reminded of prison one day when Grant came home 
from the school he was attending, both his eyes pretty dirty-looking. 
I asked him why he had been fighting. 

"I don't want to tell you." 

'Td like to know." 

"Well, this boy told all the fellows my mother'd been in jail." 

"What did you do?" 

"I hit him, and he hit me back. He said, 'Your mother's a jailbird,' 
and I said, 'She's not.' Then another fellow said, 'My mother says 
your mother went to jail too.' " 



A STOUT HEART TO A STEEP HILL 267 

Grant had replied, "That wasn't my mother, that was another 

Margaret Sanger." 

"How could you say that, Grant? You know it wasn't true." 
"Mother," he replied profoundly, "you could never make those 

fellows understand." 



Chapter Twenty-one 



THUS TO REVISIT 



THE event of my visit to London in 1920 was the beginning of 
my friendship with H. G. Wells. There was no aloofness or 
coldness in approaching him, no barriers to break down as with most 
Englishmen ; his twinkling eyes were like those of a mischievous boy. 
I was pleased to find he had no beard and no white hair, because-^ 
seemed to me I had heard of him since I had begun to think at all. 

Wells had ranged every field of knowledge, had dared to invade 
the sacrosanct precincts of the historian, the economist, and the scien- 
tist and, though a layman in these fields, had used his extraordinary 
gifts to interpret the past and present and even prophesy the future; 
in novel after novel he had shocked England by championing women's 
right to a freer life. 

We in the United States were just beginning to be affected by so- 
ciological concepts; only Henry George and Edward Bellamy had 
previously opened up this new world of the imagination. Now here 
was Wells giving a fresh picture of what could be if man had an ideal 
system of society that was workable. At Columbia Colony he had been 
quoted repeatedly. On my lecture tour in 19 16 his name had been 
on everybody's lips, and he had signed the letter to President Wilson 
protesting against the Federal indictment. I believed he had influenced 
the American intelligentsia more than any other one man. 

For good reason countless faithful friends had attached themselves 
to Wells, and he included in his varied, intricate, and unpredictable 
personality a capacity for loyally loving both individuals and human- 
ity. 

268 



THUS TO REVISIT 269 

People who had never met Wells always thought they knew him 
best, especially Londoners. I was stopping with three maiden sisters 
in Hampstead Gardens, and a great furor arose as soon as it was 
known in the household/ that Mrs. Wells had sent me an invitation for 
what was to be my first week-end at Easton Glebe in Essex. What was 
I to wear ? Was I going to take the blue net or the flowered chiffon ? 
They were greatly disappointed when I carried only a small bag in 
which there was no room for fluffy evening gowns. 

Wells himself was waiting on the platform at Dunmow Station, 
and we drove in his little car, called the Pumpkin, to Easton Glebe, 
a part of the Warwick Estate on which he held a life lease. The former 
rectory was built of old stone, ivy-covered ; lovely lawns were spread 
around it. Early morning tea was served in your room, shoes put out 
at night were properly polished, hot water was plentiful for your bath, 
and extra pitchers were brought with towels wrapped around carefully 
to keep in the steam. 

During the course of the next two days I realized more than ever 
before how sensitive H.G. was to the slightest intonation. To be with 
him meant you had to be on the alert every second lest you miss some- 
thing of him. He could be amusing, witty, sarcastic, brilliant, flirta- 
tious, and yet profound at once, all in his thin, small voice, speaking 
high up into the roof of his mouth, as do many English, instead of 
back in the throat as we do. 

I returned Monday evening about midnight to my room at Hamp- 
stead, having spent the day in town seeing people. But no sooner had 
I closed the door than steps pattered in the hallway and a soft hand 
tapped. In came the three ladies, hair in braids, warmly and most 
modestly swathed in voluminous, white cotton nighties, long-sleeved 
and tight around the neck. They had stayed wide-awake to hear all 
about my week-end. I told^them as much as I could remember of the 
place and the stimulating fellow guests, one in particular with whom 
I had been having an interesting discussion. When I had finished the 
eldest leaned forward and hesitatingly but loudly whispered, "Did he 
try to kiss you ?•" 

"What? Who?" I asked, having in mind the man I had just been 
praising. 

"Why — why — don't you know ?" 



27O MARGARET SANGER 

"Know what?" 

She looked a little abashed at this, and another voice explained 
apologetically, "Sister means that Wells has a magnetic influence over 
women !" 

"Was he fascinating?" the youngest eagerly took up the catechism. 

For two solid hours I was bombarded with questions; H.G. was 
the Don Juan of spinsterhood in England. That there was a Mrs. 
Wells for whom Mr. Wells cared deeply did not matter in the least to 
them. 

I wish I could do justice to Jane, as Catherine Wells was affection- 
ately called. This devoted mother, perfect companion, was the com- 
plete helpmate, managing H.G.'s finances, reading the proofs of his 
books, seeing that all editions were up-to-date, letting no publisher 
be delinquent in his royalties. She did not pretend to be a Feminist ; 
she was there to protect him, performing the duties of an English wife 
towards her husband and appearing with him so that they might make 
a united front to the world. The relationship between them was on a 
fine plane. 

Although H.G. had told me once "the sun would set if. anything 
ever happened to Jane" I felt that he had never put her adequately 
into his books as the great woman she really was ; he was too close to 
her. After she died, his touching introduction to The Book of Cather- 
ine Wells proved that he realized what she had been in his life. 

Jane was always mothering people and looking after their comfort. 
At a later time when I happened to be at Easton Glebe, she was dis- 
tressed and anxious that I was taking it for granted I had to have an 
ice-pack on my neck every night because my tubercular glands were 
bothering me. She insisted and insisted something must be done, until 
finally my tonsils were removed, the true source of my trouble. I owed 
this tremendous relief to Jane's interest, which would not let me go 
on being sick. 

The gay wit and gift for mimicry were not confined to H.G. alone. 
On one of my visits I was shown a new bathroom, and we viewed 
solemnly the tiny, almost microscopic, tub. Jane was slight and small, 
and I was quite sure it was meant for her and not for H.G.'s rotund 
frame. She maintained, however, it had been installed for his conven- 
ience, and made funny suction noises as though a large and deep well 



THUS TO REVISIT 27 1 

were being pumped dry. I was hilarious, but he, pretending to be 
irritated, yet laughing too, growled at her, "What are you trying to 
do? Make my bathing an international joke?" 

The little things H.G. said, many of them jibes at himself, were 
always amusing. Even more so were the drawings with which he dec- 
orated his letters. If he did not want to go somewhere he might perhaps 
illustrate his reluctance by picturing himself being dragged off, or, if 
he desired the absence rather than the presence of a person at a meet- 
ing, he would portray him being pushed out unceremoniously. These 
ingenious caricatures allowed many subtleties which even he would 
not like to put into words over his own signature. 

Jane was unsurpassed when it came to charades, and never minded 
having the house turned upside down in the search for properties. But 
the Wells family did not have to depend upon orthodox pastimes ; they 
often made up their own. H.G. had invented a ball game which was 
played Sunday mornings in a barn made over into a sort of indoor 
court. Unlike tennis, many could take part at once and the sport was 
so exhausting that when they finished they were usually dripping with 
perspiration. I did not play; other novices seemed to be doing badly 
enough without me. If you did not feel up to anything so strenuous, 
you could take a short walk through the charming garden which Jane 
had so lovingly arranged, or a long one through the woods, by the 
lakes, or bordering the streams of the Warwick Estate, of which H.G. 
had free use. Every season had its different aspects of beauty. 

Sunday afternoons and evenings were especially merry. The at- 
mosphere at Easton Glebe was like nothing else, something that does 
not exist here, where the elders have their bridge and their conversa- 
tion and the young go dancing or to the movies. There, all ages mixed 
together in fun, in laughter. The two sons, Frank and "Gyp," who 
were then at Cambridge, might bring from ten to fifteen friends home 
for tea, a great function over which Jane so graciously presided. The 
maids went out after setting the table for supper and preparing cold 
meats on the buffet, and the party then took care of itself, everybody 
serving everybody else. The boys were full of devilment and it was 
most uproarious. 

I often wondered how the unexpected arrivals were provided for, 
but Jane was a remarkable hostess ; I have known her to have a house- 



272 MARGARET SANGER 

ful at Easton Glebe for lunch and give a brilliant dinner in London 
that same evening. Every guest was planned for, no one was ever hud- 
dled with another, appropriate games were produced or friends in- 
vited who might be interesting or helpful. When they were ready to 
leave, all were put on the most convenient trains and returned to town 
with as little trouble to themselves as possible. 

From 1920 on I never went to England without spending part of 
the time with H.G., and many of the most attractive people I met were 
at Easton Glebe. I always came away enriched by these contacts and 
the talks we had together. Conversation was a combination of current 
topics, science, philosophy, history. The English might not have had 
the same light flippancy or such a scattered fund of information as the 
average American, who usually qualified his statements with, "I read 
that — " or "I know someone who — ," but they did speak out of their 
own experience. Furthermore, they could toss the ball of repartee 
back and forth objectively and not become irritated or let creep into 
their voices that personal note which implied they had now settled the 
whole thing. 

Each one at Easton Glebe had his turn in the spotlight ; it was never 
a monologue, which a man in H.G.'s position might have made it. No 
subject could be mentioned that he did not have its complete history 
and a definite opinion on it as well, including Neo-Malthusianism in 
all its implications. 

These week-ends were inspiration and recreation. The serious duty 
which called me to England was lecturing. The Neo-Malthusian 
League had few speakers at that time to address women audiences, 
and wished me to test out the response to their propaganda. 

English public sentiment on birth control had vastly changed since 
I had been there in 191 5, largely because Marie Stopes' book had had 
such wide circulation during the after- War period ; her voice had made 
articulate the feelings of the millions of unemployed. That people 
now knew what birth control meant was due in part also to Harold 
Cox, one of the finest orators of his generation, who had been the 
first to point out that its condemnation by medical men and Anglican 
clergy should carry little weight, because the birth rates among them 
were lower than those of almost any other classes. Notable exceptions 
who had come out favorably were Sir James Barr, ex-President of the 



THUS TO REVISIT 273 

British Medical Association, Dr. C. Killick Millard, Health Officer of 
Leicester in the North, Dean Inge of St. Paul's, and the Bishop of 
Birmingham, who was Chairman of the English National Birth Rate 
Commission ; England was accustomed to clarifying new and con- 
troversial subjects, by such bodies, summoning experts to testify. 

Dr. Alice Vickery arranged for me to give a series of talks, many 
before lower middle-class workers' wives who belonged to the 
Women's Co-operative Guild. In different districts of London they 
came together, paying their little bit, perhaps sixpence a month, to 
listen to speakers, afterwards serving tea and conversing in a friendly 
way among themselves. Though their economic uncertainty made 
them resigned to having ten or twelve children, the fact that the Guild 
had just brought out a book describing some of the tragic cases of its 
own members and the deaths from over-childbearing helped to pave 
the way. 

Of all the slums I visited in trams, on buses, via the Underground, 
the one of worst repute at the time was the dockyards section of 
Rotherhithe. I held a small demonstration clinic there — in a sense the 
first of its kind in England. The eager women who came, amazingly 
ignorant of any possible beauty in marriage, were envious of a few 
in the community who, though the fathers were receiving no higher 
wages than their own husbands, had had only two or three children 
and consequently could afford to send them to the trade school. They 
themselves were, if not sliding backward, at least no more than hold- 
ing their own, but those few families were definitely on the way up in 
the social scale. And it had all come to pass because Dr. Vickery and 
Anne Martin, a friend of hers who had labored there for two decades 
as a social worker, had given some contraceptive information about 
ten years earlier. 

Although Dr. Vickery had on numerous occasions raised the ques- 
tion of birth control before gatherings bent on other matters, it fell to 
my lot to discuss it first as a public health issue. I was told I might 
have three minutes to address a national health Conference on Mater- 
nal and Infant Welfare to be held at Brighton. Considering the four 
hours required in transit this might seem a short time, but I was happy 
to have even as much as that. So I went. 

With the prospect of reaching university students I traveled to 



274 MARGARET SANGER 

Cambridge. In the midst of the weathered spires, the ivied halls, and 
the storied dignity of Trinity and Kings, Noel Porter and his wife, 
Bevan, had converted an old public house, The Half Moon, into a 
home, yet had managed to keep its original atmosphere of convivial 
hospitality. The tap-room had once opened directly on Little St. Mary's 
Lane ; now the bar had been removed, but the ancient sign still swung 
back and forth and the smoky ceilings and mildewed paneling were 
the same as when former generations had congregated there over mugs 
of ale. 

Opposite was a tiny, old-fashioned graveyard, no longer used, and 
I went out there and let the sun beat against my aching back. It was 
amusing to have to resort to a cemetery for privacy, but the house was 
constantly filled with hatless students coming and going through the 
enormous downstairs room which served as rendezvous for all. In the 
afternoons these youths on the threshold of manhood came to talk 
over the questions which were perplexing them ; in the evenings they 
had little meetings, at one of which I spoke. 

Guy Aldred, who was in Scotland, had planned my schedule there, 
and I had three weeks of a Scottish summer — bluebells so thick in 
spots that the ground was azure, long twilights when the lavender 
heather faded the hills into purple. 

When I had been in Glasgow before, I had encountered only officials, 
but on this occasion I met the people in their homes and found them 
quite opposite to the stingy, tight-fisted, middle-class stereotype. They 
were hospitable, generous, mentally alert, just as witty as the Irish and 
in much the same way, which rather surprised me. 

Fourth of July, Sunday, we had a noon meeting on the Glasgow 
Green. Nearly two thousand shipyard workers in caps and baggy 
corduroys stood close together listening in utter, dead stillness without 
cough or whisper. That evening I spoke in a hall under Socialist aus- 
pices, Guy Aldred acting as chairman. One old-timer said he had been 
a party member for eleven years, attending Sunday night lectures 
regularly, but never before had he been able to induce his wife to come ; 
tonight he could not keep her home. "Look !" he cried in amazement. 
"The women have crowded the men out of this hall. I never saw so 
many wives of comrades before." 



THUS TO REVISIT 275 

The men were there, partly through curiosity to hear the American 
and partly through interest in the subject, ready to fight the ancient 
battle of Marx against Malthus. Efforts of the English Neo-Malthu- 
sians to introduce birth control to the masses had been hampered not 
only by the opposition of the upper classes, but more especially by the 
persistent hostility of the orthodox Socialists. 

Marx, dealing with problems after they had arisen, had taught that 
any reform likely to dull the edge of poverty was bad for Socialism 
because it made labor less dissatisfied. It followed that if a man had 
to fight for the hungers and necessities of ten or twelve children, he 
made a better revolutionary. "Let 'em have as many as they can," was 
the cry. On the other hand, if birth control were practiced by the work- 
ing classes, the wage earner who could support two children and knew 
how not to have more was going to be content and would not struggle 
against conditions of economic insecurity. Hence he was likely to for- 
get "the Revolution." 

Knowing that the Scotch took mental notes of items on which to 
debate, I had tried to prepare myself well, and I produced the unan- 
swerable argument to this theory. "Why do you demand higher wages 
then," I asked, "when what you really want is privation? If misery 
is your weapon you should not insist on an eight-hour day but on a 
twelve- or f ourteen-hour one. You should pile up your grievances, and 
pile them up higher. However, in spite of your best efforts I believe 
your hunger-revolution will, as it has always done, capitulate to what- 
ever force or government will fill your stomachs." 

Socialists, like anarchists and syndicalists, were used to contesting 
Malthusianism on economic grounds, but, unlike the others, they had 
as a part of their platform the freedom of woman. I pointed out that 
she could have the sort of freedom they desired for her right here and 
now through birth control. 

When I ended, Guy Aldred asked, "Now are there any questions ?" 
After a few somewhat irrelevant ones, silence fell ; confronted by their 
own philosophy they could see it. One man finally rose, "We'd like to 
hear what the Chairman thinks of all this. Does he believe birth con- 
trol will do what the lady speaker claims for it ?" Apparently they were 
waiting for their cue. But Guy Aldred was not to be drawn. After 



276 MARGARET SANGER 

giving him an opportunity to express himself they plunged in and 
said their say. Even some women who had never been on their feet 
before got up to tell dramatic, vivid, personal stories. 

The next day I was on my way to a town not far from Dunfermline, 
Andrew Carnegie's birthplace. I arrived about four o'clock in a driv- 
ing storm, lacking both umbrella and raincoat. No taxi had ever 
graced the railroad station, and we trudged through the rain to the 
cottage of one of the "most advanced friends of labor." I was soaking 
wet up to the knees. A hurry-call was sent to neighbors for dry cloth- 
ing, but among that population of five thousand not a single woman 
had an extra skirt to lend, and only after long search was a new pair 
of Sunday shoes forthcoming. 

Because there was not an inn within miles, I slept that night with 
my hostess in the one bed the house contained ; the husband stretched 
himself out on two chairs in the kitchen. Since Sylvia Pankhurst had 
been similarly accommodated just a few months before, I knew I was 
having the best the village afforded. 

The inhabitants had been dispatched from Lancashire factory 
towns during the War for special munitions work, and here they had 
stayed and made their homes. Practically all had been apprenticed to 
the mills at the age of eight or nine. Girls, because they were destined 
for marriage and therefore needed no education, had worked ten or 
twelve hours a day throughout their adolescence, and even after their 
weddings up to the time pregnancy was well advanced. As a result, the 
young mothers, who had never, from childhood to maturity, had a 
chance to become rested and get the fatigue out of their systems, had 
apparently transmitted their weariness to their children; the first- 
born were sleepy, inert, and always tired. A doctor told me it was 
common for boys and girls of five, six, and seven to fall asleep at 
their school desks and have to be awakened. 

When I had arrived in England I had gone to see Havelock in 
the quaint old Cornwall village where he was living alone since Edith's 
death. Winding pathways, well-trodden and embraced on either side 
by rambling shrubbery and verbena, led from his house to the sea 
hundreds of feet below. The waves dashed continuously against the 
crags and rocks, and thousands of gulls shrieked or sailed majestically 
almost in front of my eyes. 



THUS TO REVISIT 277 

We had then talked about going to Ireland where I could make a 
foray into my own genealogy. Mother's ancestors at some stage had 
been the same as Edward Fitzgerald's and I thought I might find some 
of the places from which they had sprung. I had no exact information 
— just tradition from childhood days. Now, after my strenuous lec- 
turing, I needed a brief holiday, and Havelock also wanted a vacation ; 
so we joined forces. 

My primary purpose was frustrated because after half a century 
nobody in any of the little villages seemed to know anything definite. 
At Glengariff they said, "Sure, and I thought it was Killarney your 
grandfather was born in." But at Killarney I was told, "Oh, it was 
Cork your family came from. My grandmother knew them very well." 

More difficult to surmount than the vague discursiveness of these 
good people was the Sinn Fein Rebellion, in the thick of which we 
found ourselves. The night before we reached Cork there had been a 
raid and the leaders were in hiding. Everywhere we went we could 
sense a subtle, surreptitious undercurrent — in the hotels, in the res- 
taurants, among small, whispering groups which dispersed when any 
stranger approached. 

Ireland had great natural beauty, and I was sorry to see the begin- 
nings of ugly, modern industrialism cropping up, especially in Cork 
with the Ford factory. The mustard-colored kilts of the men aston- 
ished me ; I had never known the Irish wore them, but they were try- 
ing to bring back their ancestral dress along with the Gaelic language. 
Always their kindness and interest and the sadness in their voices 
moved me deeply. They were never too sad, however, to give a quick 
turn to a phrase. One morning the tram in which we were riding sud- 
denly stopped. Nobody knew why ; everybody was complaining. Then 
from a side street came a handful of Black and Tans with bayonets 
fixed. I asked the Irishman sitting beside me, "What does that mean?" 

"You should know," he replied. "Those are Wilson's Fourteen 
Pints." 

Havelock was a delightful companion, not loquacious, but keenly 
interested in everything, and forever jotting down his copious notes. 
We hired a two-wheeled jaunting car in which we sat back to back, 
and in this way bumped from Glengariff to Killarney. Occasionally the 
sun broke through for half an hour, but it was wet that year — potatoes 



278 MARGARET SANGER 

and hay were rotting on the ground because the sun did not shine long 
enough to dry them. 

We arrived at the inn, drenched and sopping. Havelock, with his 
typically English dread of a cold, went to bed, but I stayed up talking 
with a young woman and three equally young traveling priests — Sinn 
Feiners all. We chatted desultorily until I happened to mention I had 
a letter to the widow of the hero, Skeffington, who had been killed in 
the disturbances. 

The company, assuming me to be one with their cause, immediately 
became most friendly. The girl began discussing higher education for 
her sex. I asked her how she could keep on when she married and had 
the inevitable succession of offspring. The priests, somewhat to my 
surprise, fell in with my ideas by deploring too large families ; some 
of the older sons and daughters had to emigrate, and even those who 
were left could not care adequately for their parents. It would be better 
for the Catholic Church as well as for the world if they could help 
people to have only a few children and bring them up decently. I felt 
hopeful because they were speaking of birth control as solving some 
of their own problems ; they were saying exactly what I most wanted 
them to say. 

Several happy days we spent at Killarney, exploring on foot, 
on horseback, and in boats. The men who drove the cart or rowed us 
through the lakes always knew the old myths of the mountains and 
poured into our ears tales of leprechauns and other "little people." You 
heard the word "divil" more than any other. Here the divil, so they 
told us, had left his step, there he had run away. The shape of every 
mountain, the twist of every stream had their stories. 

Wherever we went women, lean and elderly, wearing tiny shoulder 
shawls and calico print dresses, fairly started out of the hillsides, bare- 
headed, barefooted, complexions like roses, and eyes as blue as the sky. 
Yet their faces were hungry and worn. Getting on in years as they 
were, they could and did run faster than our ponies. When we spurred 
forward they came right along, flattering, cajoling, uttering prayers 
and "God bless you's," calling on all the saints to preserve you if you 
would buy a drop of "Mountain Dew," which was so good for your 
health. If you bought this Irish whiskey from one, another took her 
place, and, quite undiscouraged, began again the flow of sales talk. 



THUS TO REVISIT 279 

One of our last days, when the wraiths of the lake dimmed the 
emerald hills, we walked to red-bricked Killarney House, to which, as 
Havelock said, nature was adding her own wild beauty to the beauty 
that man had made. 

All of' Ireland had seemed draped in mist and sadness and, lovely 
as it had been, I never wanted to go back. 



V. 



Chapter Twenty-two 



DO YE HEAR THE CHILDREN WEEPING? 



AFTER the Irish interlude I was ready to go on to Germany to 
jLjL carry out the most important objective of my journey abroad. 
It had become obvious that progress depended on finding a means of 
contraception, cheap, harmless, easily applied. Way back in 19 14 
Havelock had seen in some of the last medical journals to come out 
of Germany an advertisement of a chemical contraceptive. He had 
mentioned it to me, and ever since I had been eager to track it down. 
In pre-War Germany every advertised product had been required to 
live up to the claims made for it ; the public must not be misled. Thus 
I was convinced that if the notice had stated it was to prevent con- 
ception, the assertion was true. No news of it had come since the War, 
and I wished to ascertain whether it was still being manufactured. 
Perhaps this formula would be the solution to our problem. 

I had a secondary reason also for going to Germany — to investigate 
the decline in the birth rate. It was said half the married women had 
become barren during the blockade for lack of proper food. I was 
always looking for evidence to support and strengthen our arguments, 
and, consequently, wanted to discover what had been learned of the 
relation between vitamins and fertility. 

Berlin was cold and dark when Rose Witcop and I, about eleven 
at night, arrived at Neukoln, a special proletarian section of the city. 
The train was late, an unusual state of things in efficient Germany, but 
this was the period of her greatest disorganization. The telegram which 
had been sent to Rose's sister and brother-in-law, Milly and Rudolph 

280 



DO YE HEAR THE CHILDREN WEEPING? 28l 

Rocker, had apparently not been delivered ; nobody met us. There were 
no taxis, no carriages, no lamps, no lights in the windows to relieve 
the pitch blackness. A sleepy, disgruntled porter led us across the street 
to an insignificant hotel. He knocked at the door ; a head popped out 
of a window above. "Two ladies want to stay overnight." The pro- 
prietress said she could give us nothing to eat, but that we could have 
a room. We accepted gladly, climbed up a ladder into the same bed, 
piled high with feathered mattresses above and below us, and settled 
ourselves to comforting sleep after the long and tiresome journey. 

In the morning, refreshed, we took a tram to the Rockers' small 
apartment. Rudolph was a syndicalist, a friend of Portet, and had 
been interned in a concentration camp near London during the War. 
Both Milly and Rudolph had suffered great privations after their re- 
turn. But, although food was very scarce, they were more than prodi- 
gal and kind in sharing with us. 

Germany was still no place for casual visitors in 1920. She seemed 
dead, crushed, broken. Street traffic, even in a metropolis the size of 
Berlin, was slight. I noted particularly the grim silence everywhere ; 
people had forgotten how to smile. They were thankful for the Revo- 
lution, but it had not brought much relief, and the winter to come was 
dreaded. Instead of displaying food or clothing, the windows of shop 
after shop on street after street were decorated only with streamers 
of colored paper. 

Everybody was ravenous for fresh vegetables ; money meant noth- 
ing, food everything. I saw old peasant women coming in from the 
country with bags of potatoes on their backs. Fifteen minutes after 
emptying them on to pushcarts they were sold out. The only fruit 
to be had were plums, and that is how I remember it was late summer 
in Berlin ; it is curious how such memories crop up. 

Ordinarily I could go without eating if I had plenty of water, but 
in Berlin I found myself haunting grocery stores like a hungry animal, 
examining each new article avariciously. I cannot as a rule bear tinned 
milk and will not give it to babies, yet here when I saw a can of Amer- 
ican evaporated milk, I found myself viewing it with glowing eyes. 
I was disgusted with myself. Nothing satisfied my appetite except 
eggs, and these, along with milk, could be purchased only on pre- 
scription from a doctor. Meat was reduced to half a pound a week for 



282 MARGARET SANGER 

each person, but I had no ration card. A neighbor of the Rockers 
obtained some bread for me and gave me her potatoes although she 
and her three lovely daughters had only rice as a substitute. I was in 
tears over her generosity. 

For months many families had existed on nothing but turnips. 
They ate turnip soup, turnips raw, turnips mashed, turnip salad, turnip 
coffee, until their whole systems revolted physically against the sight 
of turnips. The contact with other persons in trams, halls, churches, 
even streets, was nauseating; in a few minutes the fumes of turnip 
from their bodies was so offensive that they became almost unendur- 
able to themselves. 

I went into a two-room home, clean but overflowing with ten chil- 
dren, five born since the War, starvation horribly stamped on their 
faces. The oldest was twelve — still too young to work. The father, 
a locksmith, had no job. All were living on a hundred marks received 
every week from Government Unemployment Insurance. It was now 
Saturday, and not one crumb or morsel remained to tide them over 
until the next payment on Monday. They had eaten no breakfast, no 
dinner, and the father had gone to the woods to search for mushrooms 
to keep them alive. 

Even men who had employment were working only three days a 
week, averaging a hundred and fifty marks for a family, and marks 
were fifty to the American dollar. The best food had to be given to 
them because they were the earners. Women were the real sufferers ; 
they had to go without or subsist on what they could scrape together. 
They nursed their babies beyond two years to supply milk, and all their 
time was occupied in a constant hunt to find nourishment for the 
older ones. 

I heard countless stories from mothers who had been tortured by 
watching their children slowly starve to death — pinched faces growing 
paler, eyes more listless, heads drooping lower day by day until finally 
they did not even ask for food. You saw a tiny thing playing on the 
street suddenly run to a tree or fence and lean against it while he 
coughed and had a hemorrhage. Others like him were dying of tuber- 
culosis from lack of eggs, butter, and milk — so many cows had been 
sent to France. Yet they came up to me and offered to sell their pre- 



DO YE HEAR THE CHILDREN WEEPING? 283 

scriptions thinking that I, as a foreigner, had money to buy them; 
they themselves had none for these luxuries. 

The old-fashioned warrior who entered with the sword and killed 
his victims outright had "my respect after witnessing the "peace con- 
ditions" of Germany. 

The Quaker food stations admitted only children who were ill and 
only mothers who were more than seven months pregnant or who 
were nursing babies less than four months old. The spectacle of one of 
these women bringing two or three of her brood, not sick enough to 
be regularly fed, to share her own soup was too sad and overwhelm- 
ing to bear. Those in charge of the distribution wanted each mother 
herself to eat for the benefit of her unborn child or nursing infant, and 
were already crowded to capacity, feeding three and four hundred at 
a time on cocoa and rolls made from white flour. But they could not 
bring themselves to exclude the little scarecrows with large, starry 
eyes, pipestem legs, and hands from which the flesh had fallen until 
they were like claws. On one of my visits the "sister" had them stand 
up and then asked, "Where have you been?" 

"To America," they chorused. 

"What have you to say?" 

"We love America. We thank America." 

I did not instantly comprehend, but it was explained to me that 
they called the station Amerika in token of their gratitude. 

To account for the sorry state in which they found themselves the 
Germans were groping to fix the blame either within their country or 
on some foreign power. All seemed of the opinion that had the United 
States not entered the War, none would have been victor and none 
vanquished; this, they said, would have meant a lasting peace. Yet 
they felt little animosity towards us. What there was had been largely 
wiped out by the aid of the Hoover Commission. Furthermore, they 
still hoped we might be an influence in loosening the Treaty chains 
which kept them helpless and bound. When I asked them why they had 
accepted the humiliating terms at Versailles of which they complained 
so bitterly, they replied they had been told that, had they not done so, 
vast territories which supposedly had been mined would have been 
blown up and huge populations would have been annihilated. 



284 MARGARET SANGER 

The military party accused the Socialists of having stabbed them 
in the back and brought about defeat through the leadership of such 
pacifists as Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who had paid with 
their lives ; the Socialists and workers regretted they had not united 
with Russia and, combining their own scientific and technical knowl- 
edge with her raw materials, conquered the world and thus molded 
all civilization to their ideals. 

Both classes sincerely believed that France wanted to destroy them 
utterly. I saw something of the reason for their feeling one day when 
a tram stopped to let off passengers, and a French automobile filled 
with French officers, instead of halting the prescribed number of feet 
away, plowed right through, knocking down two people and never 
even pausing to see what havoc it had created. The spectators gazed at 
the bodies lying there waiting for the ambulance. They did not dare 
shake their fists, but anyone could tell from the pitch of their voices, 
their expressions of passion and anger, how bitter was their resent- 
ment. 

The women broke down all the reserves of my emotion. They had 
been at one time the most advanced in Europe, politically, economically, 
and socially, and, although they had had to work harder at the gym- 
nasiums than the men because higher marks had been required of them, 
they had been really on a par. But now a frightful retrogression had 
occurred. Working women had been forced down to a state beside the 
lower animals ; they had become drudges in the fields in place of draft 
horses. I saw one who could not have been past twenty-five carrying 
a huge basket of vegetables strapped to her back, the weight of 
which threw her forward so that I expected any minute to see her go 
on all fours. 

An impressive and tragic poster by Kathe Kollwitz was displayed on 
various corners. It showed a woman with head thrown back, eyes 
closed, arms crossed over breast, and was captioned simply, "Waiting." 
The human figures you saw on the streets looked out of eyes dried by 
suffering and deepened by hunger. They had no faith, no hope, no 
philosophy ; they were resigned to love or hatred, peace or war, a living 
death or a sudden end. 

Throughout Europe, governments were clamoring for bigger popu- 
lations; France was offering bonuses for large families. "Our babies 



DO YE HEAR THE CHILDREN WEEPING? 285 

are dying; give us more babies." Among European labor groups only 
the syndicalists of France had recognized excessive population as det- 
rimental to the working classes. 

The deficiency in Germany of two million lives sacrificed in the War 
had been made up by the thousands returned from Alsace-Lorraine, 
from the former province of Posen, and the deportees from England, 
France, and Italy. There were not nearly enough positions to go round. 
Yet the nationalists, who had tried to cover the bitter pill of imperial- 
istic ambitions with a sugar-coating of patriotism, still estimated the 
world in terms of numerical greatness and women as mere machines 
in the cradle competition of human production. Even the German So- 
cialists, following in the footsteps of Marx, opposed Malthusianism 
vigorously in and out of season. 

A Neo-Malthusian congress had been held in Dresden in 1912, but 
the movement then organized by Maria Stritt had practically gone out 
of existence and its place taken by a more popular demand for the right 
to abortion. For a single year the statistics of Berlin indicated that out 
of forty-four thousand known pregnancies twenty-three thousand 
were terminated by this means, though it was technically illegal. 
Women were now campaigning for a bill before the Reichstag to per- 
mit operations to be performed lawfully in hospitals, where fatalities 
could be reduced by proper sanitary care. Not one of those with whom 
I talked believed in abortion as a practice ; it was the principle for which 
they were standing. They were resolved to have no more babies for 
cannon fodder, nor until they could rear them properly. 

Most of the doctors whom I interviewed said that what Germany 
needed was children and lots of them. I asked one if the medical pro- 
fession, as a whole, were doing anything to prevent entrance into the 
world of those children whose backs were so weak that they could never 
sit up straight, whose bones were too soft to hold the weight of their 
bodies. He answered abruptly, "By aborting the mothers we are doing 
our best to cope with conditions as we find them. It is not our work to 
change them." 

I was hounding everybody to learn the whereabouts of the contra- 
ceptive formula for which I was searching, and was finally given the 
name of a gynecologist who should know, if anybody did, where it 
could be found. I made an appointment, and he greeted me in the most 



286 MARGARET SANGER 

cordial way. When I questioned him about the reported sterility of 
German women, he agreed with the argument that, the situation being 
what it was in the country, the population should be checked for the 
next five years. "Here is a friend indeed," I said to myself. 

I then gently brought up the subject of abortion. "Doesn't this seem 
a ridiculous substitute for contraceptives?" 

The doctor rose, his chest sticking out ; he buttoned his coat, bowed 
formally, and inquired, "Where did you say you came from?" 

"New York City." 

"Are you sure you are not from France or Belgium ?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Nobody who has the welfare of Germany at heart could talk to me 
as you have this morning. Only enemies could come here to give such 
information to our women." 

I wished he would sit down ; he made me nervous. But I went on. 
"Why is it such an act of enmity to advocate contraceptives rather than 
abortions ? Abortions, as you know yourself, may be quite dangerous, 
whereas reliable contraceptives are harmless. Why do you oppose 
them?" 

To my horror he replied, "We will never give over the control of 
our numbers to the women themselves. What, let them control the 
future of the human race ? With abortions it is in our hands ; we make 
the decisions, and they must come to us." 

That was not the tone of this doctor alone but also that of most of 
his confreres. 

Thinking that Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld might know about the for- 
mula, Havelock had given me a letter to him, and I presented it at the 
Institute of Sex Psychology, where abnormalities were being studied 
and treated. This most extraordinary mansion, bestowed by a prince 
of Bavaria who had himself been cured of inversion by Dr. Hirschfeld, 
was furnished sumptuously. On the walls of the stairway were pic- 
tures of homosexuals — men decked out as women in huge hats, ear- 
rings, and feminine make-up; also women in men's clothing and 
toppers. Further up the steps were photographs of the same individuals 
after they had been brought back to normality, some of them through 
adaptation of the Voronoff experiments in the transplantation of sex 



DO YE HEAR THE CHILDREN WEEPING? 287 

glands. It was not a place I particularly liked, although I was interested 
to see how a problem which had cropped up everywhere in the post- 
War confusion was being attacked. 

Dr. Hirschfeld was N kind and gave me the address of a firm in 
Dresden which he believed might be manufacturing the formula, so 
off I went to that city. It was memorable for my meeting with Maria 
Stritt, a darling little old lady, as quaint in her way as Dr. Vickery in 
hers. This tiny aristocrat, like one of the dolls for which her city was 
famous, had a fine vigorous mind, and spoke English with care and a 
better choice of words than most Americans. Again I made the rounds 
of the doctors and again found none concerned over birth control ; I 
went to the address where the formula was supposed to be, only to be 
directed on to Munich. 

Munich, to me the most lovely city in Germany, seemed the most 
prosperous of any I had visited. I noticed a difference immediately; 
the streets were cleaner, the people less hungry-looking. There was 
more food, more clothing in the shops, and much greater activity. It 
had always been synonymous in my mind with music and Lieb- 
fraumilch, and I was delighted to be asked to dine at a hotel which I 
was told was the smartest and gayest in town. "Oh, we envy you. You'll 
have dancing, you'll have wine, you'll have everything." But it turned 
out to be a night club in the most blatant New York style, one table 
elbowing another, the people — Germans, not tourists — dancing to last 
year's jazz, the whole place shrieking nouveaux riches. This, too, 
was part of post- War life. 

Bavarian gemutlichkeit could not be altogether downed. On Satur- 
days the trams were literally jammed with men and women, young 
and old, who had put on their climbing clothes, donned their packs, and 
here hieing themselves away to near-by resorts or to the hills. With 
them went their guitars or accordions, and when the singing began 
everybody knew all the words — no tum-de-tum-de-tum. If they did 
not have their own instruments there was sure to be a wandering 
musician to play, and the floors of every hostelry or open-air bier- 
garten were literally filled with whirling, waltzing figures. Everyone 
seemed able to enter into the folk dances, although to me they appeared 
complicated — many steps, much precision, and a great deal of dignity. 



288 MARGARET SANGER 

Hunger and poverty existed in plenty, however, in the city. Hospi- 
tals were lacking in the simplest and most ordinary articles — no soap, 
no cod-liver oil, no rubber sheets, insufficient clean linen. Even the 
babies had to lie all day in wet diapers, and consequently the poor 
little waifs were a sad, miserable lot. Another tragic thing which gave 
me nightmare for weeks was to see children's mouths covered with 
running sores, because the sole available meat and milk came from 
cattle suffering with hoof-and-mouth disease. 

Here at Munich the "birth strike" was most violent. The former 
medical chief of the Communists told me the women of Bavaria were 
determined to stop having babies ; he himself had given information 
to thousands and had intended to establish clinics all over the state had 
the Communist Republic remained in power. 

Only the preceding spring the Communist red flag had for three 
weeks flown from the house tops of Munich. I met representatives 
from both sides of the political arena. The middle- and upper-class 
conservatives claimed the revolutionists had not been capable of man- 
aging affairs, being good agitators but not good organizers — able to 
start things but not knowing how to finish them. They had not given up 
their guns ; money had been put aside and peasant costumes and boots 
were ready for escape, because the existing bitterness made it likely the 
struggle was not yet settled. Communist leaders, on the other hand, 
claimed they had allowed their enemies to flee and then had been tricked 
and fooled, and knew at last they could expect no quarter. Their ideals, 
their faith in humanity, their consideration, had cost them their lives 
and liberty, and they would not forget this valuable lesson. 

At a meeting of the Communist Party I was introduced to Mrs. 
Erich Muhsam who, with her husband and their friend Landau, had 
gone to the front and distributed leaflets to call the boys back home. 
Landau, a gentle soul who so believed in the goodness of man that he 
had pleaded with the soldiers to be brothers and not to take life, had 
been kicked and clubbed to death by the White Guard, which had after- 
wards marched to the Muhsam apartment and, when they could not 
find anybody there, had wrecked it with machine guns. Fortunately for 
the Miihsams they were already in jail. 

Though the Revolution was supposed to be over, Erich Muhsam 
was still imprisoned. In every country during such upheavals thousands 



DO YE HEAR THE CHILDREN WEEPING? 289 

are cast into jail and, unless some other upheaval occurs to get them 
out, they remain there ; many pacifists in the United States were not 
freed until long after the Armistice. 

In 1928 I saw Erich Muhsam — every inch a poet, an artistic and 
delicate organism, almost helpless-looking. In 1935, under Nazi rule, 
he was returned to a concentration camp — a hangover on the black list. 

The account of his fellow prisoners ran something like this : One 
afternoon he had been told to "report at headquarters and bring a 
rope." 

"Where can I find a rope?" 

"I don't know. Get it !" 

"They're going to kill you," he was warned as he started out, still 
lacking a rope. 

"Oh, it's just one of their jokes — a form of torture." 

"You may be right ; you've scarcely lifted a voice." 

But that evening his comrades discovered him dangling by the neck 
from a beam. They said he could never have climbed up himself and 
that, furthermore, he had been beaten to death before Jie had been 
hung there. 

Nevertheless, officially he had committed suicide. 

I met in Germany probably a hundred thorough-going conserva- 
tives and only one Muhsam, and yet he it was who stood out spectacu- 
larly. 

My own interests were keeping me busy enough. I finally found that 
the formula I was seeking was made in Friedrichshaven, on Lake Con- 
stance. I initiated a correspondence with the chemist, asking him to 
come to Munich, and enclosing stamps to make sure of his reply. He 
could not make the journey but, instead, invited me to Friedrichshaven. 

All the passengers on dismounting at the station seemed to have 
someone to meet them except myself. I noticed a smallish man with 
what appeared to be bangs under his hat, front and back, standing on 
the platform and holding a tight bunch of wild flowers wrapped up in 
a newspaper, a matching one in the buttonhole of his coat, but as far 
as I could see he was serving no special purpose there. I went to a 
hotel, and in a very short while the little man himself arrived, having 
identified me as the American lady he had come to greet. His quaint 
bouquet was my welcome to Friedrichshaven. 



29O MARGARET SANGER 

The chemist, with his father and brothers, ran an unpretentious 
factory which, in addition to other products, was making the contra- 
ceptive in the form of a jelly. It had been put out before the War, then 
dropped, and was now just starting up again and beginning to find a 
market in Germany. He feared to let me go near his establishment, 
suspicious that America might steal his formula. But he showed me a 
picture of it, and gave me a few sample tubes, saying I could ob- 
tain others from his sister, who was going to act as his agent in New 
York. Thus was inaugurated a new phase in the movement — the use 
of a chemical contraceptive. 

I had letters of introduction to several people in Russia, and had 
hoped to be able to go there, but I had commenced handing out my 
extra dresses, underwear, stockings, shoes in Berlin ; my friends had 
so little and were so generous that I could not endure it, arid now, in 
the face of an approaching winter of hardship, without wardrobe and 
no prospect of securing one or even sufficient food, I had to abandon 
the Russian plan. 

I had talked clinic, clinic, clinic while I was in England. Having 
myself been convinced, I wanted the Neo-Malthusians also to believe 
that it was a better way than advice through literature. A few of them 
were assembling to meet me in the Netherlands, and thither I turned 
my steps. As soon as the train north was over the border, cream was 
brought and delicious fruit; the contrast between one side and the 
other was too obviously brutal and awful. It almost made me ill to see 
so many delicacies in the Dutch shop windows when children in Ger- 
many were starving. 

With the Drysdales, to Amsterdam came Dr. Norman Haire, Aus- 
tralian born, a gynecologist who had settled in London, sensed the 
public interest in birth control, informed himself thoroughly on the 
subject, written a great deal about it, and become prominent in the 
movement, advocating contraception from his Harley Street office. 

As Dr. Haire and I went around visiting clinics we found that the 
countless stores where contraceptives were sold had fitting rooms in 
back with midwives in charge. They did not maintain the old Rutgers 
standards. I was disappointed to see the deterioration which had taken 
place since 191 5. During the reorganization period of Europe the 
tendency, under Russian influence, was for young laborites to be in 



DO YE HEAR THE CHILDREN WEEPING? 29 1 

charge of things, and they aimed to turn out Dr. Rutgers and the Dutch 
Neo-Malthusians and put clinics, which were dedicated to the work- 
ers, on a strictly utilitarian basis. Here as elsewhere they could agitate 
and tear apart but lacked executive ability. The new board, composed 
mainly of laymen, did not realize that such technical knowledge and 
experience was required as only a physician like Dr. Rutgers pos- 
sessed. He was a sad and unhappy man, profoundly discouraged over 
the odds against which he had to struggle. 

Nonetheless, my English friends were converted to the idea of 
clinics, and Bessie Drysdale and Dr. Haire planned to open one soon 
in London. 



Chapter Twenty-three 



IN TIME WE ONLY CAN BEGIN 



"Enough, 'tis the word of a Grand Bashaw; 
You needn't to bother about the law. 
He told me they wasn't to speak at all, 
You don't need a warrant to clear a hall. 
He told me to tell them to stir their stumps; 
When 'Clubs!' is the order, then clubs is trumps. 
What else would it be when I'm just a cop 
And he is a Reverend Archbishop?" 

ARTHUR GUITERMAN 



IN confirming my conviction in 19 18, Judge Frederick E. Crane of 
the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York had 
for the first time interpreted the section of the state law which per- 
mitted a licensed physician to give contraceptive advice for the "cure 
or prevention of disease" ; and, further, he had taken from Webster's 
Dictionary the broad definition of disease as any alteration in the state 
of body which caused or threatened pain and sickness, thus extending 
the meaning of the word far beyond the original scope of syphilis and 
gonorrhea. But, never satisfied, I wanted women to have birth control 
for economic and social reasons. ) 

Therefore, in January, 1921, Anne Kennedy and I went to Albany 
to find a sponsor for a bill which was to change the New York law. 
It was not only a question of amending it, but also a means of edu- 
cating the public, of explaining our cause through the medium of 
legislation. Months of preparation were required, hours of tramp- 
ing the floors of State buildings at Albany, interviewing one per- 
son after another, securing promises of help, breaking down hostility. 

When people said that women who would not have children were 
selfish and preferred lap dogs, I replied, "All right. Then it is better 

292 



IN TIME WE ONLY CAN BEGIN 293 

for the children not to be born." That type of woman should die 
out biologically, just as did the different species that were caught in 
the mire and slime and could not reproduce themselves. It is a 
principle that applies to human beings also, that they must work 
through their environment in order to survive. 

As soon as you could get out of people's minds what birth control 
was not, they almost invariably said, "Why, yes, certainly, that sounds 
reasonable." Many of the lawmakers themselves believed that the 
measure might be of great benefit, but the party whip cut too deeply. 

Birth control was once described by Heywood Broun as dynamite 
from the point of view of the politician. If he supported it, he might 
lose votes ; if he opposed it, he might lose votes. "There is nothing a 
politician hates more than losing votes. He would much rather the 
subject never came up." 

One assemblyman from Brooklyn at first agreed to introduce our 
bill and then wrote, "I very much regret, but after consulting with some 
of the leaders of the Assembly, I have been strongly advised not to 
offer your bill. I am told it would do me an injury that I could not 
overcome for some time." Another refused on the ground of "levity 
from his associates." But a few years later we found a young, 
courageous legislator who introduced a bill and secured hearings. 
Although it was defeated, the atmosphere was clarified. 

Mrs. Hepburn, who had been in the suffrage movement early and 
had been one of the sponsors of Mrs. Pankhurst's tour of the United 
States, now lived in Hartford, Connecticut. Although the mother of 
six, including the actress, Katherine, she retained her youthful face 
and figure, being almost like a sister to her children, playmate and 
companion for them at tennis, golf, and swimming. Young men asked 
her to dinner with the same pleasure that they asked her daughters. 

Closely associated with her was Mrs. George H. Day, Sr., a grand- 
mother in 192 1. She always came from Hartford for every Board 
meeting of the\ League and, in turn, her house was a place of refuge 
for poor, worn-down friends of causes. They could go there and be 
ministered to by a staff of servants and come back, rested and re- 
juvenated. 

With two such seasoned campaigners to back us, we carried our 
legislative activities into Connecticut, the only state where "to use a 



294 MARGARET SANGER 

contraceptive" was a crime — as though it were possible to have a 
policeman in every home ! A mere six years had elapsed since the move- 
ment had begun ; consequently, that we were now able to get a hearing 
was in itself a triumph. Nevertheless, no easy task faced us ; so much 
red tape had to be broken through. But here at Hartford we did suc- 
ceed in finding an introducer who could hold his own under ridicule. 
Then we had to educate him, feed him with facts — medical, social, 
historical — so that he could defend his bill. 

A young priest stood forth as our chief opponent, basing his ob- 
jections on the laws of nature, which he claimed were contravened by 
birth control. Fortunately the committee had a sense of humor. In my 
ten-minute rebuttal I was able to answer the "against nature" argu- 
ment as Francis Place had done a hundred years earlier. I turned 
the priest's own words on himself by asking why he should counter- 
act nature's decree of impaired vision by wearing eyeglasses, and 
why, above all, was he celibate, thus outraging nature's primary de- 
mand on the human species — to propagate its kind. The laughter 
practically ended the "unnatural" thesis for some time. 

In New Jersey another attempt was made. The law there allowed 
doctors to give information for "a just cause," but they were fearful 
of including minor ailments under this interpretation. The bill intro- 
duced at Trenton had a hearing, but it also failed to pass. 

The whole thing was nerve-wracking but was part of the experi- 
ence we gained. And, furthermore, whenever we had hearings, the local 
work progressed much more rapidly as a result. Nothing was lost, 
however expensive the plowing and sowing. Apparent defeats were 
victories in the long run. 

It then seemed to me from glancing over current clippings and 
publications that people all over the world were discussing birth con- 
trol. The English Baron Dawson of Penn had been Court Physician to 
Edward VII and had continued in this same post during the reign of 
George V. But he had broader interests, too. One of the great events 
in the history of the movement was his speech at the Church Congress 
at Birmingham in answer to the doctrine promulgated by the Bishops 
at Lambeth that sexual union should take place for the purpose of 
procreation only : 



IN TIME WE ONLY CAN BEGIN 295 

Imagine a young married couple in love with each other being ex- 
pected to occupy the same room and to abstain for two years. The 
thing is preposterous. You might as well put water by the side of a 
man suffering from thirst, and tell him not to drink it. Romance and 
deliberate self-restraint do not to my mind rhyme very well together. 
A touch of madness to begin with does no harm. Heaven knows life 
sobers it soon enough. 

His speech caused an immense sensation throughout England. 
Headlines and streamers announced, "King's Physician asks Church 
to sanction birth control." The deduction was that His Majesty was 
endorsing it, and stolid Britishers were all agog at the idea that Buck- 
ingham Palace was now talking about the subject ; it was hinted Queen 
Mary was not overpleased. 

On this side of the Atlantic Major General John J. O'Ryan, who 
had commanded the Twenty-Seventh National Guard Division, lec- 
tured on overpopulation as a cause for war. Frank Vanderlip, once 
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and later President of the Na- 
tional City Bank, had just returned from Japan, proclaiming that 
population must be controlled because some countries could no longer 
feed themselves. Here was an army man on the one hand, and a finan- 
cier on the other, unprimed, uncoerced, even uninvited, speaking out 
of their independent experiences. They were voices in the wilderness, 
oases in the desert, and certainly encouraging historical landmarks. 

Among uneasy experts the sentiment was growing that population 
pressure in Japan would soon create an inevitable explosion. Indeed, 
one of the familiar arguments in the United States brought forward 
against birth control was the "menace of the Yellow Peril," by which 
was meant specifically, Japan. What folly to reduce our birth rate when 
Orientals were multiplying so appallingly fast that the downfall of 
Western civilization might soon be looked for ! India and China were 
teeming indiscriminately, but their peoples were feeble, inert, and dis- 
eased ; whereas the Japanese were being reared under German health 
traditions, were ninety-seven percent literate, and were technically 
equipped for battle. 

Naturally I was eager to learn as much about this situation as possi- 
ble, and welcomed the opportunity to meet the Nipponese friends of 



296 MARGARET SANGER 

Gertrude Boyle, who had married a gentleman of Japan. They always 
appeared in pairs or groups of three, four, five at a time, talking busily 
in asides with each other while I exchanged opinions with one. They 
were helpful in furnishing me with unpublished facts ; the older, con- 
servative, nationalist, militarist party advocated greater numbers, but 
the young, liberal intellectuals, many of whom had attended Occidental 
universities, could see the clouds already lowering on the horizon and 
hoped the storm could be averted by controlled population growth. 
Atro, a reporter on a New York Japanese paper, had been supplying 
the last-named group, which in Tokyo called itself Kaizo, meaning 
reconstruction, with clippings about birth control, and several of my 
articles had been printed in their publication. 

The women's point of view was graphically described to me by the 
Baroness Shidzue Ishimoto, daughter of the head of the great Hirota 
clan and wife of Baron Keikichi Ishimoto, a young nobleman who had 
put in practice his ideals of service. This charming, youthful and gra- 
cious matron, tall for her race and equally beautiful by our standards, 
very smart in her American street costume, had in 191 9 come from her 
own land where suffrage for women was still mentioned in awed tones. 
She had studied our language at a Y.W.C.A. business school, and in 
three months had performed the extraordinary accomplishment of 
mastering it sufficiently to speak, write, and even take dictation in 
English. 

We quickly became friends and she at once foresaw the possibilities 
of birth control in bringing Japanese women out of their long sup- 
pression in the family system. She said she intended to form a league 
immediately upon her arrival in Tokyo, and did so in 1921. 

During that year also clinics were started in England. That of Marie 
S topes proved popular, although instruction, given by a midwife, was 
limited to mothers who had already had at least one child. Shortly 
afterwards Dr. Haire and Bessie Drysdale, with Harold Cox as chair- 
man of a lay group to finance the work, established Walworth Center, 
which had a fine gynecological thoroughness and set an example which 
later clinics in England followed. 

It was high time clinics were started in the United States as well. 
After the Crane decision I had anticipated that hospitals were going to 
give contraceptive advice. But in 19 19, under Dr. Mary Halton's di- 



IN TIME WE ONLY CAN BEGIN 297 

rection, two women, the first with tuberculosis, the other with syphilis, 
had been taken from one to another institution on Manhattan Island. 
All had refused such information, although most had agreed that the 
patients, if pregnant, could be aborted. The officers in charge had said 
they were obliged to protect their charters, and the staff physicians 
their licenses and reputations. 

Anything depending on the organized medicine is hard to put 
over; though individual doctors may break away, in the long run 
most medical progress proceeds by group action. 

Since the hospitals were laggard in this matter, I decided to open a 
second clinic of my own. It was to be in effect a laboratory dealing in 
human beings instead of mice, with every consideration for environ- 
ment, personality, and background. I was going to suggest to women 
that in the Twentieth Century they give themselves to science as 
they had in the past given their lives to religion. 

In addition to the usual rooms I planned to have a day nursery where 
children could be kept amused and happy while the mothers were being 
instructed. A properly chosen staff could enable us to have weekly ses- 
sions on prenatal care and marital adjustment. Gynecologists were to 
refer patients to hospitals if pregnancy jeopardized life; a specialist 
was to advise women in overcoming sterility ; a consultant was to deal 
with eugenics ; and, finally, since anxiety and fear of pregnancy were 
often the psychological causes of ill health, a psychiatrist was to be 
added. I intended, furthermore, that it should be a nucleus for research 
on scientific methods of contraception; domestically manufactured 
supplies of tested efficacy could not, at that time, be procured. 

Because organized medical support was lacking, I tried to see what 
could be done with individuals, writing to various doctors to inquire 
whether they were willing to sponsor such an undertaking. Several 
asked me what methods I was recommending, but Dr. Emmett 
Holt, then the outstanding pediatrician of New York, whose book, 
The Care and Feeding of Children, was the bible of thousands of 
mothers, invited me to come to his office; before making any endorse- 
ment he wanted to know more about it. 

I packed up all my European supplies and showed them and ex- 
plained them to Dr. Holt, who had called in also an obstetrician and a 
neurologist, Dr. Frederick Peterson, for the discussion. The usual 



298 MARGARET SANGER 

attitude of the child specialist was, "Our living depends upon babies. 
Why should we advocate limiting the supply ? The more the merrier. 
If you cut down, you're taking our maintenance from us." But Dr. 
Holt said, "A thoroughly reliable contraceptive would be a godsend 
to us. If the family cannot afford a nurse we must rely on the health 
and strength of the mother to keep her baby alive. If pregnancy can be 
postponed for a few years, not only the baby who has been born, but 
the baby who comes after is much more likely to survive." 

Dr. Holt lent us his name, one of the first important physicians to 
do so, thus setting an example which eventually others followed. Five 
or six men and women doctors agreed to stand behind the clinic. 

But I had to have more than verbal approval. Unless the clinic were 
to be conducted by a doctor with a New York practicing license, it 
would not be there to stay. In early autumn I brought together an 
interested group to discuss the possibility of a location on the East 
Side near Stuyvesant Square, and Dr. Lydia Allen de Vilbiss, whom 
I had met at the Indianapolis social workers' conference, was going to 
form her own medical committee behind her and build it up. On the 
basis of her promise, I signed a year's lease for a small suite of rooms 
at 317 East Tenth Street, from which a dentist had just moved out, ap- 
propriately situated on the ground floor in a densely populated section. 

The legislative activities and planning for a clinic had taken much 
of my attention during the year, but the central theme was the de- 
termination to hold the First National Birth Control Conference, 
November n-13, 1 9 21 > at the Plaza Hotel in New York. I timed 
it purposely to coincide with a meeting of the American Public Health 
Association, hoping that if we could only convince these officials of 
the need for birth control, they would use it in their own work. 

In addition to the health aspect, we planned to treat of population 
and also have a doctors' meeting on methods and technique. But 
"flaming youth" was having its fling, and the great clamor of the 
moment was directed towards the moral issue. Opponents were con- 
stantly hurling the statement that immorality among young people 
was to be the inevitable fruit of our efforts. This I did not believe. I 
knew that neither morality nor immorality was an external factor in 
human behavior; essentially these qualities grew and emerged from 
within. If the youth of the post- War era were slipping away from 



IN TIME WE ONLY CAN BEGIN 299 

sanctioned codes, it was not the fault of birth control knowledge 
any more than it was the fault of the automobile, which made 
transportation to the bright lights of the city quick and easy. Im- 
morality as a result should not be placed at the door of Messrs. Ford 
or Chrysler. 

In order to have a free and fair hearing we proposed a large open 
meeting to wind up the Conference, and invited ministry and clergy 
of all denominations, including Archbishop Patrick J. Hayes, who 
was the spokesman of the Catholic Church in New York. 

The movement was older in England and had already established 
its dignity there. Consequently, the presence at the Conference of 
such an outstanding Englishman as Harold Cox was certain to carry 
weight. To persuade him to take the sea voyage I sailed for Europe. 
When I arrived in London I found him unwell, and his doctors at 
first refused him permission to travel. Under the circumstances it 
was very fine of him to promise to come. J. O. P. Bland also said he 
would look in on the Conference if only to give it his blessing. He was 
a dark-haired, witty, amusing North-of-Irishman who had lived much 
in the Orient and become an authority on Far Eastern matters, an 
internationalist in all his thinking. He was one of those who always 
helped- to hold up your right hand. 

My object in England having been attained, I went on to Switzer- 
land with a definite aim ; I had formed a habit in my nursing days, 
when I was waiting in the night to give medicine or treatment to a 
patient, of occupying the time putting down experiences and thoughts 
that came to me. The same habit continued. After lectures, while I was 
still sizzling with excitement, I often relieved the tenseness by writing 
down answers to questions I feared I had not covered adequately. Be- 
fore I knew it I had material gathered for a book, and even some chap- 
ters in rough draft. They needed pulling together and polishing off 
and I went to bed in Montreux for a month to do this. I had regarded 
Woman and the New Race as my heart book ; this, The Pivot of Civi- 
lization, was to be my head book. I brought it back with me to the 
United States and Wells, who was reporting the Washington Disarm- 
ament Conference for the New York World, wrote an introduction. 

To make our Conference a success it had to be under the auspices 
of an organization. I had always had a dread of them. I knew their 



300 MARGARET SANGER 

weaknesses and the stifling effect they could 'have. They seemed heavy 
and ponderous, rigid, lifeless, and soulless, often caught in their own 
mechanism to become dead wood, thus defeating the very purposes 
for which they had initially been established. Even the women who 
were able and clever at systematizing such bodies terrified me with 
their rule-and-rote minds, their weight-and-measure tactics ; they ap- 
peared so sure, so positive that I felt as if I were in the way of a giant 
tractor which destroyed mercilessly as it went. 

In spite of this dread I had reasoned out the necessity for an organi- 
zation to tie up the loose ends. Although it might be limiting and in- 
hibiting to the individual, it had other advantages of strength and 
solidity which would enable it to function when the individual was 
gone. Therefore I sent a questionnaire to leaders in social and pro- 
fessional circles, asking them whether the time had not come for such 
a national association ; the replies almost unanimously confirmed this 
decision. 

The evening before the Conference was to open, a few friends 
gathered together to launch the American Birth Control League. Its 
aims were to build up public opinion so that women should demand 
instruction from doctors, to assemble the findings of scientists, to 
remove hampering Federal statutes, to send out field workers into 
those states where laws did not prevent clinics, to co-operate with 
similar bodies in studying population problems, food supplies, world 
peace. After the dinner, given at Mrs. George F. Rublee's home, 
we talked over specific plans for the year and set in motion the 
machinery for having the League incorporated. 

Juliet Barrett Rublee had been one of the pioneers, a member of the 
original Committee of One Hundred, and all the way through the 
years she has never wavered from my side. No more inspired idealist 
was ever initiated into a movement. The imagination of this pictur- 
esque, romantic wife of a conservative lawyer had been so fired that 
she dedicated to it her entire devotion, loyalty, partisanship. Others had 
rallied their own personal friends around the idea, but Juliet's influence 
brought in her husband's associates — the Cravaths, Morrows, La- 
monts, Dodges, and Blisses. 

Juliet's parties were always gay and interesting, with an atmosphere 
nobody else could create. Her small, engaging dining room was as 



IN TIME WE ONLY CAN BEGIN 3OI 

colorful as she herself — the only woman I ever knew who dared to 
wear bright greens, reds, yellows, all together. For lunches, teas, and 
dinners in behalf of the cause she practically turned over her home in 
Turtle Bay Gardens. 

A goodly number attended the opening of our Conference, which, 
appropriately, coincided with that of the great disarmament confer- 
ence at Washington. The medical meeting, where contraceptive tech- 
nique was discussed, was so crowded that latecomers could not squeeze 
in. The doctors who did find places, each apparently surprised to see 
his confreres there, expected us to have a hundred percent sound 
methods ; they seemed disappointed because we had no magic up our 
sleeves and told them quite frankly we had not. The best we could do 
was show what devices were being employed, including those from the 
Netherlands and. the preparation I had found at Friedrichshaven, 
with the warning that they had not been tested for efficacy. 

After two full days nothing remained but the Sunday evening mass 
meeting on "Birth Control, Is It Moral?" For this we had selected 
the Town Hall pn West Forty-third Street, a new club designed as a 
forum for adult education; the auditorium was often used for discus- 
sion of questions of civic interest. Harold Cox was to deliver the first 
speech and I was to follow. 

Always, when I am to speak, I attempt to visualize the hall and the 
audience in order to feel my way into the subject. When I cannot do 
so, I have invariably been met by blocked doors. Throughout Sunday, 
try as I would to "tune in" to the approaching event, I could not do it. 
I kept remembering a dream I had had the night before in which I was 
carrying a small baby in my arms up a very steep hill and came rather 
abruptly to a slope which became a mountain side of rock and slippery 
shale ; I had nothing to grasp to prevent me from sliding. The baby 
cried continually and I wanted to comfort it, but I dared not use my 
right hand because it was held up like a balancing rod which saved us 
both from falling. That miserable dream made me drowsy all day. My 
brain seemed numb. I simply could not think of what I was going to 
say. 

Anne Kennedy had gone ahead to the Town Hall at about seven 
o'clock. Harold Cox and I had dined at Juliet's but I could not eat ; I 
was interested neither in the food nor the conversation. I still had an 



302 MARGARET SANGER 

absolute blank in front of me. Juliet was congratulating me that soon, 
with the Conference over, I could have a rest. Ordinarily when I am 
approaching the end of a particular job I begin to feel released, but this 
time I could not reassure her ; I was nervous, anxious, and apprehen- 
sive. 

Our taxi swung into West Forty-third Street and crept cautiously 
along through a swarming aggregation. "Heavens !" I said. "This is 
an overflow with a vengeance." 

We dismounted and pushed our way to the Town Hall doors. They 
were closed and two policemen barred our path when Mr. Cox and I 
attempted to enter. "This gentleman is one of the speakers and I am 
another," I said. "Why can't we go in?" 

"There ain't gonna be no meeting. That's all I can say." 

I had not the faintest idea of what was happening. A newspaper 
man standing near by suggested, "Why not call up Police Commis- 
sioner Enright and see what the trouble is ?" 

Juliet and I rushed across the street to a booth and she telephoned 
police headquarters. No one could say where the Commissioner was. 
As far as they knew no orders to forbid the meeting had been issued. 

Then I put through a call for Mayor Hylan. While I was waiting 
for the connection I kept my eyes on the Town Hall entrance and saw 
that policemen were cautiously opening the doors to let out driblets of 
people. If they could get out I could get in, so I abandoned the tele- 
phone and wove my way through the throng until I reached the doors, 
slipping in under the policemen's arms before they could stop me. 
Dignified health officers from all over the country, lawyers and judges 
with their families and guests were standing about, grumbling, vague, 
reluctant to depart, wondering what to do. 

I fairly flew up the aisle but halted in front of the footlights ; they 
were as high as my head and another blue uniform was obstructing the 
steps leading to the stage. Suddenly Lothrop Stoddard, the author, tall 
and strong, seized me and literally tossed me up to the platform. A 
messenger boy was aimlessly grasping flowers which were to be pre- 
sented after my speech. Stoddard grabbed them briskly, handed them 
to me, and shouted, "Here's Mrs. Sanger !" 

"Don't leave !" I called to the audience. "We're going to hold the 
meeting." 



IN TIME WE ONLY CAN BEGIN 303 

A great scramble began to get back into the seats. The hall was in a 
turmoil ; the front doors had been stampeded and those in the street 
were pressing in, only to find their places gone. The boxes and galleries 
were soon filled, the stage was jammed, hundreds were crowded in the 
rear. I cried, "Get in out of the aisles !" I knew the meeting could be 
legally closed if they were blocked, and I did not want fire regulations 
to be used as a pretext. 

I still had no idea of what had gone on earlier when I commenced 
my lecture, but had uttered no more than ten or twelve words when two 
policemen loomed up beside me and said, "You can't talk here." A 
thundering applause broke out as though it were the only relief for 
angry, indignant, rebellious spirits. 

"Why can't I ?" 

I started again but my voice could not be heard. I then suggested to 
Harold Cox, "Perhaps they'll let you speak. Try it." This white-haired 
and pink-cheeked gentleman walked to the edge of the platform with 
a dignity of bearing about as distantly removed from immorality as 
could be imagined. "Ladies and gentlemen," he began, "I have come 
from across the Atlantic — " but that was as far as he got before he 
was led back to his seat by a policeman. 

Then Mary Winsor, an ardent suffragette, sprang up, but they 
stopped her also.^ As soon as one was downed, another jumped to his 
or her feet. I did not know the names of some of the volunteers, who 
were not even allowed to finish their "Ladies and gentlemen." 

Meanwhile, Anne Kennedy was telling me as best she could what 
had happened prior to my arrival. When the house had been half filled, 
a man had come to the platform and asked, "Who's in charge?" 

"I am," Anne had answered. 

"This meeting must be closed." 

"Why?" 

"An indecent, immoral subject is to be discussed. It cannot be held." 

"On what authority ? Are you from the police ?" 

"No, I'm Monsignor Dineen, the Secretary of Archbishop Hayes." 

"What right has he to interfere ?" 

"He has the right." Here he turned to a policeman. "Captain, 
speak up." 

"Who are you ?" Anne had demanded. 



304 MARGARET SANGER 

"I'm Captain Donohue of this district. The meeting must be 
stopped." 

Capable and cool-headed Anne had replied, "Very well, we'll write 
this down and I'll read it to the audience. T, Captain Thomas Donohue, 
of the Twenty-sixth Precinct, at the order of Monsignor Joseph P. 
Dineen, Secretary to Archbishop Patrick J. Hayes, have ordered this 
meeting closed.' " 

The listeners had sat petrified while she had read them this strange 
admission. No hissing or booing then. They had just sat. It was one 
thing to have the hall shut by a mistaken or misguided police captain ; 
a very different thing to have it done by a high dignitary of the Roman 
Catholic hierarchy. 

Monsignor Dineen was now stationed in the back of the hall, and 
Anne pointed him out to me, of medium size, in plain attire, calmly 
directing the police by a casual nod of the head or a whisper to a man 
who acted as runner between him and the Captain on the platform. 

Confusion and tumult continued for at least an hour. Newspaper 
men were scribbling stories ; those who could not get in were creating 
commotion outside ; the reserves had been summoned. It was bedlam. 
Miss Winsor tried to speak two or three times ; I, at least ten. But I 
knew that I had to keep on until I was arrested in order that free speech 
might be made the issue. To allow yourself to be sent home at the 
order of the police was accepting the police point of view as to what 
was moral. Moreover you were bound for the principle of the thing 
to carry it into the court for a legal decision; if the pulpit and press 
were denied you, you must take it to the dock. 

Captain Donohue kept repeating to me, "Please get off this stage 
before you cause disorder." Police now began to hustle the audience 
towards half a dozen exits, and finally Miss Winsor and I were put 
under arrest ; Robert McC. Marsh, Mrs. Delafield's son-in-law, offered 
to act as our counsel. 

Juliet said to an officer, "Why don't you arrest me too?" 

"Well, you can come along if you like," he agreed. So we walked 
together up Broadway to the station at West Forty-seventh Street, 
policemen flanking us. The crowd, still jeering the reserves, who had 
been trying vainly to clear the way, fell in line and marched behind us. 
A patrol wagon then took us to night court where we were arraigned 



IN TIME WE ONLY CAN BEGIN 305 

before Magistrate McQuade. Someone had telephoned J.J. and he 
came up later, but Mr. Marsh had already taken care of the necessary 
formalities. We were released on our own recognizances, to appear at 
court the following morning. 

It was now some time after midnight, but we all went back to Juliet's 
apartment. Harold Cox was shocked, not only by the roughness of the 
police, but also by the supineness of the audience, which had done 
nothing but make a noise. "Had this been in London, they would never 
have been able to stop the meeting ! We would have defended our 
rights, used every chair and door and window to barricade the place, 
even though we might have been beaten in the end." 

Anne Kennedy had brought the reporters, and they were waiting 
for us. They wanted to make out a story of police stupidity and let it 
go at that, unable to believe her when she told them it was the Arch- 
bishop who was responsible. A Times reporter called up the "Power 
House," as St. Patrick's Cathedral was colloquially termed, reached 
Dineen himself , "and asked for verification. "Yes," said the Monsignor, 
"we closed the meeting." 

Then and there we decided to hold a second one as soon as possible 
at the same place. 

It was well on towards five o'clock when at last I fell in my bed. 1 
sank to slumber, but it was only to find myself still carrying that 
same baby up the steep and sliding mountain, balancing myself with 
upraised hand. The sky was dark, the way unmarked. Wearily I 
stumbled on. 



Chapter Twenty-four 



LAWS WERE LIKE COBWEBS 



"And heard great argument, 
About it and about; but evermore 
Came out by the same door wherein I went.' 

EDWARD FITZGERALD 



. fff- t£tm fftm fff. tff* tft* fff. 

\W xVV VW \SV.* VW \W TfcV* 

PROMPTLY at nine the morning after the wretched Town Hall 
affair Miss Winsor and I appeared before Magistrate Joseph E. 
Corrigan and the case was dismissed in five minutes. Neither Mon- 
signor Dineen nor Captain Donohue was in court. Here was a ridicu- 
lous thing — the Catholic Church held such power in its hands that it 
could issue orders to the police, dissolve an important gathering of 
adult and intelligent men and women, and send them home as though 
they were naughty children — and then not feel called upon to give any 
accounting. 

The papers expressed the greatest indignation. Even the most con- 
servative were placed in the trying situation of defending birth control 
advocates or endorsing a violation of the principle of free speech, 
which "must always find defenders if democracy is to survive." It was 
to be expected that the World would be up in arms, but the Times 
carried a headline that Archbishop Hayes had closed the meeting, and 
the Tribune was spurred on by the indignation of Mrs. Ogden Reid, 
who had been present at the Town Hall. 

Apparently the Church had not expected to render any explanation 
whatsoever. Then, faced with a battery of reporters, Monsignor 
Dineen made a statement : 

The Archbishop had received an invitation from Mrs. Margaret 
Sanger to attend the meeting, and I went as his representative. The 
Archbishop is delighted and pleased at the action of the police, as am 

306 



LAWS WERE LIKE COBWEBS ^°7 

I, because ... I think any one will admit that a meeting of that char- 
acter is no place for growing children. . . . The presence of these 
four children at least was a reason for police action. 

He had not improved his position. The scoffing was redoubled when 
it was learned that the four "children" were students of Professor 
Raymond Moley's class in sociology at Columbia University; Mon- 
signor Dineen had not seen beyond their bobbed hair. 

Only a small section of the public had been aware of our modest little 
conference; even fewer had known of the proposed Town Hall meet- 
ing. Now the publicity was tremendous. Many Catholics themselves 
condemned Church tactics, and Archbishop Hayes had to defend him- 
self : 

As a citizen and a churchman, deeply concerned with the moral 
well-being of our -city, I feel it a public duty to protest ... in the 
interest of thousands of . . . distressed mothers, who are alarmed 
at the daring of the advocates of birth control in bringing out into an 
open, unrestricted, free meeting a discussion of a subject that simple 
prudence and decency, if not the spirit of the law, should keep within 
the walls of a clinic. . . . The law was enacted under the police 
power of the Legislature for the benefit of the morals and health of 
the community. . . . The law of God and man, science, public policy, 
human experience, are all condemnatory of birth control as preached 
by a few irresponsible individuals. 

The seventh child has been regarded traditionally with some peoples 
as the most favored by nature. Benjamin Franklin was the fifteenth 
child, John Wesley the eighteenth, Ignatius Loyola was the eighth, 
Catherine of Siena, one of the greatest intellectual women who ever 
lived, was the twenty-fourth. It has been suggested that one of the 
reasons for the lack of genius in our day is that we are not getting the 
ends of the families. 

This statement appeared synchronously with our second meeting. 
The Town Hall had been booked ahead for several weeks; conse- 
quently, we had engaged the big Park Theater in Columbus Circle. 
It was packed fifteen minutes after a single door was opened. Dr. Karl 
Reiland of St. George's Church was a new recruit on the platform ; 
otherwise our program was the same as before, and a balanced and 
poised discussion proceeded without acrimony or excitement. Outside, 
however, two thousand people were clamoring to get in, even climbing 



308 MARGARET SANGER 

up the fire escapes. Orators were haranguing from soapboxes, men 
were pounding each other with their fists, Paulist fathers were selling 
pamphlets against birth control. 

In my open letter of reply to Archbishop Hayes I said : 

I agree with the Archbishop that a clinic is the proper place to give 
information on birth control. ... I wish, however, to point out the 
fact that there are two sides to the subject under consideration — the 
practical information as distinct from the theoretical discussion. The 
latter rightly may be discussed on the public platform and in the press 
as the Archbishop himself has taken the opportunity to do. 

And then, citing Scripture : 

If the Archbishop will recall his Bible history, he will find that 
some of the more remarkable characters were the first children, and 
often the only child as well. For instance, Isaac was an only child, 
born after long years of preparation. Isaac's only children were twins 
— Jacob, the father of all Israel, and Esau. Samuel, who judged 
Israel for forty years, was an only child. John the Baptist was an only 
child, and his parents were well along in years when he was born. 

Archbishop Hayes delivered his final pronunciamento in his Christ- 
mas Pastoral : 

Children troop down from Heaven because God wills it. He alone 
has the right to stay their coming, while He blesses at will some homes 
with many, others with but few or with none at all. . . . Even though 
some little angels in the flesh through moral, mental, or physical de- 
formity of parents may appear to human eyes hideous, misshapen, 
a blot on civilized society, we must not lose sight of this Christian 
thought that under and within such visible malformation there lives 
an immortal soul to be saved and glorified for all eternity among the 
blessed in Heaven. 

Heinous is the sin committed against the creative act of God, who 
through the marriage contract invites man and woman to co-operate 
with him in the propagation of the human family. To take life after 
its inception is a horrible crime ; but to prevent human life that the 
Creator is about to bring into being is satanic. In the first instance, 
the body is killed, while the soul lives on ; in the latter, not only a body, 
but an immortal soul is denied existence in time and in eternity. It 
has been reserved to our day to see advocated shamelessly the legaliz- 
ing of such a diabolical thing. 



, LAWS WERE LIKE COBWEBS 309 

A monstrous doctrine and one abhorrent to every civilized instinct, 
that children, misshapen, deformed, hideous to the eye, either mentally 
or constitutionally unequipped for life, should continue to be born in 
the hope that Heaven might be filled ! 

General opinion was that controversy gave us free publicity, and 
it did, column after column, but to my mind it was of the negative 
kind. The truths falsified and motives aspersed had to be debated, cor- 
rected, and argued away, and this took time from constructive work. 
The press wanted to keep up the excitement and manufacture news, but 
I did not. As a matter of fact the hullabaloo was usually done for me ; 
the blundering of the opposition often saved my voice. 

The correspondence through the press was dropped, but meanwhile 
the American Civil Liberties Union, spurred on by Albert de Silver, 
from whom we had previously sought advice and who had helped us 
raise funds, had urged me to institute action for false arrest. This I 
knew would be a fruitless task, but I did consent to the demand for an 
investigation. Commissioner Enright was said to be out of the city, 
but Chief Inspector Lahey, acting in his place, was to determine 
whether charges should be preferred against Captain Donohue for 
having stopped the meeting. 

On December 2nd, in a small room closed to the press, Mr. Lahey sat 
at the head of a long table. On his right was a chair to which I was 
called. On his left, opposite me, was a heavy man with a big bulldog 
head, wearing a black alpaca coat. He fixed his eyes straight on mine 
as though he intended to hypnotize me and influence by sheer terror 
what I was to say. His features were so set, his expression so immobile, 
that I sensed animus. I refused to return his gaze but faced the In- 
spector instead. 

The interrogation, prompted by this sinister individual, who bent 
over occasionally to murmur into Mr. Lahey's ear, held bitter malice. 
Nevertheless, I answered every query as completely and as honestly as 
I was able. I had nothing to hide, and still believed that my interlocutor 
could arrive at no decision unless he heard the truth in its entirety. I 
was all for telling it. ^ 

But never throughout any of the hearings could either the examiners 
or police be kept to the point. They were not genuinely trying to find 
out who had given the orders and why, but attempting to justify the 



310 MARGARET SANGER 

illegal proceedings ; and always they went off into vague irrelevancies 
extraneous to the issue, such as trying to embarrass dignified, elderly 
witnesses by asking, "What are you doing with birth control?" 

Chiefly the investigation focused around the Brownsville clinic raid. 
I denied emphatically that certain contraceptives for use by men only 
had ever been there ; they were of a type which I did not recommend, 
and had been brought in by the police themselves. 

"Do you mean to say, Mrs. Sanger," went on Mr. Lahey, "that 
this statement of the police officer as written into the records was 
untrue?" 

"I do." 

Mr. Lahey lifted an official finger to an attendant. The door of the 
anteroom opened and Mrs. Whitehurst, who had been the leader of 
the raid, was dramatically framed before us. 

"Do you say that if she," he waved to her, "made the statement re- 
ferred to in the police records, she lied ?" 

"She did," I affirmed. This was the first time in all my life that I 
had ever called a person a liar. I felt as though I had stepped down into 
the lower brackets of common decency, but the police are accustomed 
to such words, and I had to meet the circumstances. 

Mrs. Whitehurst was instantly dismissed. I, too, was dismissed, and 
Juliet took my place. She had learned from her husband and other 
lawyers how witnesses could protect themselves, and tossed off her 
answers readily, now and then returning, "I don't know," and, fre- 
quently, "I don't remember." The black-coated gentleman who had 
hoped to trip her up but was getting nowhere, became exasperated and 
said roughly to Mr. Lahey, "Oh, stop this ! Ask her if she's read the 
law." 

Juliet admitted she had read Section 1 142, but, to further question- 
ing, replied she did not recall when, she had not read it in my presence, 
she might or might not have talked it over with me. 

Mr. Lahey rose and left the room. Then the Unknown shouted to 
a young Irishman who had been busily taking notes, "Arrest that 
woman !" 

We could not have been more astonished if a thunderbolt had struck 
the place. For a few seconds, which seemed longer, everyone was 



LAWS WERE LIKE COBWEBS 3II 

paralyzed. At last Mr. Marsh asked, "On what grounds is Mrs. Rublee 
arrested ?" 

"She has violated Sectiqn 1 142." 

"She said she had read the law — is that a crime ?" 

No answer. 

Mr. Marsh then inquired, "On whose authority is Mrs. Rublee ar- 
rested?" 

Dead silence. No reply while the Unknown and the stenographer 
muttered together. Finally, when Mr. Marsh repeated the question, the 
latter replied, "I do. I arrest her on my own authority. Patrolman 
Thomas J. Murphy." 

Mr. Marsh said to the Unknown, "It's customary for brothers of 
the law to give each other their names. Mine is Robert Marsh, practic- 
ing attorney. May I not know with whom I am speaking ?" 

"I'm just a bystander." 

"Well, Mr. Bystander, won't you instruct the police officer to be 
more explicit in his statement of facts ?" 

"Look here, Marsh, I'm telling you the officer is arresting this wit- 
ness on his own initiative." 

He, too, left the room. 

Juliet, Mr. Marsh, and I entered her car and young Stenographer- 
Patrolman Murphy, obviously ill at ease, sat beside the chauffeur. At 
the Elizabeth Street Court, Magistrate Peter A. Hatting smiled cheer- 
fully at us from behind his desk, "Well, where's the prisoner ?" 

Murphy made a feeble gesture in Juliet's direction and said in a 
whisper which we could overhear, "It's a birth control case." 

"Oh, I see. Well, what was she selling — where are the articles ?" 

Murphy could produce none. 

"Well, well, where is the evidence ?" 

Murphy looked even more embarrassed, mumbled that he didn't 
have any. 

"Well, the court is adjourned anyway, and we'll have to wait until 
this afternoon." 

I was turning my back on Murphy, very cross at him, but Juliet 
asked him to lunch with us. "He didn't want to arrest me, did you, 
Mr. Murphy ?" And Mr. Murphy shook his head most decidedly. 



312 MARGARET SANGER 

While we ate, he explained that our Unknown was Assistant Cor- 
poration Counsel Martin W. Dolphin, with offices in the Police De- 
partment, that he himself was Mr. Dolphin's private secretary, that he 
had been brought to the inquiry merely to take dictation, that he had 
been only ten months on the force, that he had never arrested anybody 
before, and that when Mr. Dolphin had said to arrest Mrs. Rublee he 
had protested, "Why, I can't arrest her. I haven't seen her do anything 
to be arrested for !" 

"I'm awfully sorry," he went on, addressing Juliet, "but I had to 
obey orders. If I didn't, I'd be in an awful mess. Gee, why didn't they 
get some of the old fellows down there to do it ?" 

When we returned to court, Assistant District Attorney Wilson 
said to Magistrate Hatting, "Your Honor, I have no evidence in this 
case. The police have furnished nothing to the District Attorney's 
office. If I have not sufficient evidence by three-thirty I'll dismiss the 
whole thing." 

Then we waited. Eventually the expected "minutes and statement" 
arrived. Murphy swore that they were true — to Juliet's wholehearted 
disgust. Her faith in human nature had been betrayed ; she did not 
see why he preferred to keep his job rather than his self-respect. Magis- 
trate Hatting seemed anxious to make everybody comfortable — Juliet, 
the Catholics, the police, and the public — and to convey the impression 
nobody was really to blame. 

Since the wife of a prominent lawyer had become involved, people 
in high places in New York had an obligation to protect their own. 
Publicity had been great before ; now it was multiplied tenfold. A letter 
was addressed to Mayor Hylan : 

The action of the Police Department . . . constitutes such a wilful 
violation of the right of free speech as to cause grave alarm to the 
citizens of New York, who have a right to know why such outrages 
have taken place, what motives and influences are behind them, and 
whether any conspiracy exists in the Police Department to deny the 
right of free speech and the equal protection of the law to citizens of 
New York. This obviously is a matter of the gravest concern. 

We, therefore, ask an immediate and full investigation to be fol- 
lowed, if the evidence warrants, by such disciplinary measures against 
the officials found to be guilty as will discourage similar offenses here- 
after. 



LAWS WERE LIKE COBWEBS 313 

This demand was signed by Henry Morgenthau, Sr., Herbert L. 
Satterlee, Paul D. Cravath, Lewis L. Delafield, Charles C. Burling- 
ham, Samuel H. Ordway, Pierre Jay, Paul M. Warburg, Charles 
Strauss, Montgomery Hare. 

As a result, Mayor Hylan delegated David F. Hirshfield, Commis- 
sioner of Accounts, to supervise an investigation into the previous 
investigation. The first session was diverted into a discussion of the 
merits of birth control. The Commissioner was facetious, and, when 
Mr. Marsh kept after him for interrupting witnesses and getting off 
the subject, finally said he had been insulted and refused to continue 
as long as Mr. Marsh represented us. 

At the three subsequent hearings Emory R. Buckner took charge 
of our interests. Dolphin, although summoned, did not appear at any 
of them. Captain Donohue testified that Desk Lieutenant Joseph 
Courtney had received the information over the telephone, and had 
passed it on to him. So far as he knew it was the telephone operator 
who had given the orders to close the meeting. But he would, he said, 
have done so anyhow. 

"What law did Mrs. Sanger violate?" asked Mr. Buckner. 

"She was disorderly. I requested her several times to leave the 
platform and she defied me and said she would not do it. She caused 
quite a commotion and people were all hollering and yelling, a general 
commotion." 

"You think it was a crime for her to commence to speak after a 
Captain of Police had told her not to ?" 

"Yes." 

"Was Miss Winsor also arrested because she attempted to speak 
after being told to keep quiet ?" 

"She said she knew a woman who had nine children and the audi- 
ence commenced to holler and try to pull the policemen off the stage." 

Even the Commissioner was becoming annoyed at Donohue's in- 
anities. He said to Mr. Buckner, "You do not have to put any witnesses 
on to show the intelligence and the lack of sight or foresight of the 
Captain. You and I, I think, will agree on that point." And then he 
turned to Donohue. "Now, Captain, will you tell me the reason for 
acting in the Hall as you did to prevent that meeting ? You see, I do not 
know whether you understand me or not. You policemen, you do not 



314 MARGARET SANGER 

usually understand ordinary language. I want to know what was in 
your mind ; why did you act as you did, that is all." 

"Because I had orders to do so." But he would not admit they came 
from any further back than the Desk Lieutenant. 

Officer Murphy was put on the stand next, and the Commissioner 
gave him a chance to explain what had prompted him to make the ar- 
rest. "I figured this way. If it would be a crime to run such a meeting 
or hold such a meeting in the City of New York according to the Penal 
Law, if Mrs. Rublee was an assistant with Mrs. Sanger or anybody 
else in running such a meeting, and there were distributed circulars re- 
garding prevention of conception, Mrs. Rublee was just as much 
responsible for the distribution of these circulars as anybody else." 

"The circulars stated there would be a public mass meeting at Town 
Hall on birth control," said Mr. Buckner promptly. "Is that a crime?" 

The Commissioner interrupted. "Mr. Buckner, you do not expect 
this young man to be interested in that. He is too young to know about 
birth control. The old, bald-headed ones are the only ones that are 
interested in it." 

And late in the afternoon he said, "I am too busy and have too much 
work to do, so we won't have any summing up." 

At the concluding session Desk Lieutenant Courtney disclaimed all 
liability, saying the only order given to Captain Donohue was to take 
a number of policemen to the meeting and see that the law was not 
violated; thereafter the Captain had acted on his own responsibility. 

As far as I was concerned the final scene in the farce took place be- 
fore the elderly and firm Judge John W. Goff, one of the official 
referees of the Supreme Court who was to hear the charges before the 
New York Bar Association as to whether Dolphin should be disbarred. 
He was summoned again in vain until Judge Goff said angrily, "Unless 
he comes within the hour, I'll subpoena him," and at last, still in his 
alpaca coat, he put in an appearance. I was on the stand almost an 
entire afternoon during which the attorney representing Dolphin was 
attacking me personally instead of inquiring into Juliet's arrest. 

"Do you know Carlo Tresca ?" 

"Yes." 

"Do you know Alexander Berkman?" 

''Yes." 



LAWS WERE LIKE COBWEBS 315 

I could now see what was coming ; radicals were always made the 
whipping boys and, in lieu of specific charges, any acquaintance with 
them was made to seem incriminating. 

"Do you know Emma Goldman?" Here the attorney's voice rose 
in outrage, and he looked at Judge Goff as though to say, "There 
you have it." 

"Yes," I reiterated, "but I also know Mrs. Andrew Carnegie and 
Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. My social relations are with people of 
varying ideas and opinions." 

The next attempt was a subtle sort of third degree, aiming to con- 
fuse me and imply I was an inaccurate witness. "What was the precise 
time you entered the room where Mrs. Rublee was arrested ? How large 
was it? How long, how wide, how high, how many windows were 
there ? Who was called first ? Where were you sitting ? How far was 
Inspector Lahey from your chair ? Were you second, third, or fourth 
on the right side or left side? How wide was the table, how long? 
Where was the door located relative to the table?" 

Usually I could not have remembered one such immaterial and un- 
necessary detail. But that afternoon I was given second sight. I could 
visualize the room ; my mind seemed to be projected into it so that 
every particular stood out with the utmost clarity. It was an excellent 
lesson to me ; thereafter I observed much more carefully. 

After hours of this cross-examination I was physically exhausted, 
as though I had been flung back and forth, beaten and pounded from 
the bottom of my feet to the top of my head. I almost looked at my 
arms to see whether they were black and blue, they ached so. 

It was all useless. The police went unreprimanded, Donohue was 
promoted when things had quieted down, and Dolphin, though Judge 
Goff recommended prosecution and the Court of Appeals stated that 
his conduct was "arbitrary and unlawful," was not disbarred because 
he had not been acting in an official capacity when he had ordered the 
arrest. In spite of the inconvenience, the humiliation of halls closed, 
covenants broken — exactly nothing happened. 



Chapter Twenty-five 



ALIEN STARS ARISE 



IN the summer of 192 1 I had signed a contract with the Kaizo 
group, which had arranged a series of lectures in Japan by four 
speakers : Albert Einstein was to explain relativity, Bertrand Russell 
the consequences of the Peace of Versailles, H. G. Wells his version 
of international accord, and I was to discuss population control, de- 
livering in March and April eight to ten lectures of five hours each. 
The five-hour clause I innocently believed to be merely a mistake on 
the part of the translator, but I had faith in the common sense of 
human nature and expected the error to be taken care of when I 
arrived. 

January and February were months of feverish activity. I spoke in 
city after city — Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and elsewhere — 
rushing back to New York to Town Hall hearings and farewell 
luncheons and dinners. The prolongation of the Town Hall episode 
had been entirely unforeseen. If bookings had not already been made 
requiring my departure in February, I should have postponed the 
trip. But I had promised, and lecture dates were binding obligations. 

Stuart was at Peddie Institute where my brother Bob had gone, cap- 
tain of his football team, preparing for college, having a full and rich 
time. Grant was there also but he was barely thirteen ; I could not bear 
to put the broad Pacific between us. The headmaster warned me that 
he was only beginning to adjust himself to the school and his studies, 
and would be set back at least a year if I took him with me. I agreed 
to reconsider, but I am afraid I had made up my mind beforehand. 

3 I( 5 



ALIEN STARS ARISE 317 

With scant ceremony and scarcely enough clean shirts, I bundled him 
up and away, leaving the turbulence of New York behind. 

Since Grant was to travel on my passport, I had to have it renewed, 
and had telegraphed Washington for it to be sent to the West Coast 
where the detail of a visa could also be attended to. At San Francisco 
it was waiting. With the little book and Grant in tow I presented my- 
self to the Japanese Consul. Instead of stamping it as the usual mere 
formality, he examined it carefully and then, apologizing profusely, 
regretted very much that the Japanese Imperial Government could 
not give me a visa. 

Here was a state of things. I asked him whether he could find out 
the precise reasons. Was it that I as a person could not go there, or 
was my subject taboo? The next day, after a cable to Tokyo and 
much polite bowing, he notified me it was both. In varying degrees 
of amusement and indignation the papers published the fact that the 
Japanese were turning the tables on the United States; by our Ex- 
clusion Act we had implied they were undesirable citizens, and now 
it was an American who was undesirable to them. 

The steamship company would not sell me tickets on the Taiyo 
Maru without the visa. Two days previous to her sailing a Japanese 
who had been in the United States for the Washington Conference 
proffered a letter of introduction. He deplored the action of his Gov- 
ernment and was desirous of being helpful. "The Taiyo Maru is go- 
ing on to Shanghai. Why don't you get a Chinese visa ?" 

I always chose to go forward, and there was always a chance that 
a way might open. A hundred and fifty Japanese who had been at the 
conference — delegates, professors, doctors, members of the diplo- 
matic corps, secretaries — were returning by this same vessel. Once on 
board I could meet them simply and informally, and I was sure I 
could convince them I was not dangerous. The Chinese Consul granted 
a visa without question, our tickets were delivered, we sailed on the 
Taiyo Maru. 

I had never before been on a Japanese liner. The segregation 
between whites and Orientals horrified me. Here were the aristocrats 
of a people by nature intelligent, well-bred, well-clothed, inclined to 
be friendly, taking Grant under their wing, and teaching us both, 
amid much laughter, to eat with chopsticks. They had made valiant 



318 MARGARET SANGER 

efforts to adapt themselves to Occidentalism; they had altered their 
dress and fashion of eating — substituting coats, collars, shoes for 
loose kimonos and soft felt slippers, forks and knives for chopsticks ; 
they sat on chairs instead of kneeling comfortably on the floor. Yet 
my compatriots kept themselves aloof. Never did I see the two groups 
together in conversation; they joined only in sports. 

At night members of the crew wrestled in the moonlight, and I 
gazed down at their deck, marveling at the grips, the holds, the stout- 
ness of legs, the strength of backs and arms, the quickness of action, 
the primitive, guttural calls of the umpires. Others of the crew 
stamped their feet and, for good luck, threw pinches of salt towards 
their respective champions. 

Two days out the Japanese asked me to address them. I willingly 
complied, and the dining room was closed off for the purpose. Ad- 
miral Baron Kato, who was later to be Prime Minister, and headed 
the delegation, talked to me afterwards. He had the culture, courtesy, 
restraint, and suavity of a true gentleman, rather than the mien of the 
war lord his title seemed to imply. 

Equally genial was Masanao Hanihara, then Vice Minister of 
Foreign Affairs and destined to be Ambassador to the United States. 
He knew American ways and manners, or mannerisms, if you wish 
to name them so ; he was understanding, and perhaps one of the most 
fluent of the Japanese I met in the ease of his English. He told me his 
people were not likely to accept the idea of birth control as a social 
philosophy, though they were bound to accept the economic aspects, 
and all the young would be interested as individuals. 

Not until later did I learn how happily my contact with these two 
gentlemen had resulted. They had separately cabled their Government 
asking that I be allowed to lecture in Japan. 

At Honolulu I had one short afternoon into which to crowd so 
much. With leisliung about my neck I was whisked off for lunch to a 
magical house at Waikiki, then to a big meeting. What surprised and 
pleased me most was the complete absence of race prejudice. I looked 
out over faces, mostly American but with a liberal sprinkling of 
Chinese and Japanese in their native costumes and Hawaiians in 
bright Mother Hubbards. Honolulu was the only place I had found 
where, class for class, internationalism did exist. 



ALIEN STARS ARISE 319 

Two Japanese correspondents followed my zigzag trail, notebooks 
in hand, pencils working furiously. They even inserted questions as I 
was swept towards the boat where, breathless and almost in a daze, 
we were garlanded once more. They had a scoop and were going to 
cable their favorable impressions to their papers in Japan. 

Their efforts had definitely produced a favorable reaction on board 
ship. Individuals and delegations of Japanese came into my stateroom 
at any time — morning, afternoon, or evening — "to be informed." 
Although they did not knock, this was not considered an invasion of 
privacy, provided they bowed profoundly on their way in ; on entering 
and on leaving they bowed and bowed, again and again. They seemed 
to know more about my affairs and my children than I did myself, 
mentioning things I had completely forgotten, even reminding me of 
my unspoken thoughts of long ago. 

Past experience had taught me that when a despotic and arbitrary 
screen was interposed between birth control and the people, the desire 
for knowledge was immeasurably enhanced. This was particularly 
true in Japan, where the recent renaissance had quickened the public 
mind. At the announcement I could not land, officialdom was sub- 
jected to frank criticism. 

A little, round-faced boy called me each morning, murmuring 
something in a voice so soft and melodious it almost lulled me back 
to sleep. With the coffee, which tended to wake me, he announced, 
"Madam Sanger go in maybe. Yes, Japanese Government let her go 
in." In ten minutes he would return with the reversal of this news. 
He was aware of the contents of the radiograms which kept the 
aerials crackling even before they had been delivered to me. One 
read, "Thousands disciples welcome you." Another, "Possible land 
Yokohama; impossible discourse." From the ship's daily I learned 
first that I might lecture, but not publicly; and then, a day later, after 
continuous derision on the part of the press — all right, I might talk 
publicly if I wished, but under no condition on birth control. The 
last word I received was that I could land but speak only in private. 
From the Ishimotos came the message, "Anticipate your staying 
with us." 

March ioth was so dripping and foggy that when we reached 
Tokyo Bay I could not see Japan. The arrival of the Taiyo Maru 



320 MARGARET SANGER 

bearing such an array of distinguished passengers as the conference 
delegates was bound to call forth unusual activity. A veritable flotilla 
met the ship — police and health officers' launches, mail tenders and 
press dispatch carriers. Two officials came on board to interrogate 
me, and the three of us retired to my cabin, where our bags had been 
hopefully packed. I showed my passport, told the purpose of my visit, 
explained how I happened to know the Ishimotos and Mr. Yamanoto 
of the Kaizo group. Inspector and interpreter alike smiled amiably as 
they plied their questions, ending with the polite query, "Who is pay- 
ing your expenses?" The implication was that I might be a secret 
agent sent by the United States Government to deplete the population 
of Japan and to prepare the way for an American invasion. This 
was particularly amusing, since I was one of the persons thoroughly 
disapproved of by my Government. 

At the end of the lengthy catechism it was agreed that the ban 
would be removed if I, for my part, agreed not to lecture publicly 
on birth control, and provided the American Consul General Skid- 
more formally requested permission for me to land. I had sent him 
a wireless message from the Taiyo Maru saying I would like to visit 
the country, if not as a lecturer at least as a private citizen, and asking 
him to use his influence. Though I had had no reply I sent off a tele- 
gram to him immediately, and Grant and I sat down on the luggage to 
await developments. 

The two officials had no sooner taken their departure than the little 
cabin was filled to bursting with the gentlemen of the press. We 
started and blinked with each rapid-fire, flashlight explosion. The 
room was literally smoking with the acrid powder, and not an inch 
of standing room remained. Seventy were all trying to get in at once ; 
whatever I said had to be relayed and translated to the unsuccessful 
ones who brimmed over into the corridor. 

Meanwhile, we had docked at Yokohama and, when the reporters 
were finally disposed of, my friends, who had been patiently enduring 
the rain, greeted me — Mr. Yamanoto, Mr. Wilson of the British Em- 
bassy, Baroness Ishimoto, and "the missionary who lived next door." 
After welcoming me they left, the last named carrying with him my 
briefcase laden with my most private papers and pamphlets, which I 
did not wish seized at the Customs. 



ALIEN STARS ARISE 32 1 

Now came the tapping of clogs along the passage, and in the door- 
way were framed slight, doll-like figures, pale white faces, crimson 
lips, black glossy hair beautifully coiffured, butterfly-looking obis. 
The trials of the day vanished before their bobbing little bows. Here 
was a Japanese fairy tale come true. 

In precise English the leader introduced the others ; this one repre- 
sented the silk manufacturers, that one the weavers; each of the 
twenty-five was appearing for some laboring organization. She ex- 
plained they had been there all day, but it was nothing — they were so 
proud to be the first to welcome the herald of freedom for women. 
The Industrial Revolution which had put them to work was still so 
young that they were in virtual slavery. Yet, she said, they were so 
accustomed to subservience that it would be a long time until they 
learned to rebel against their wrongs. Suffrage was slow — Japanese 
women found it difficult to see its advantages. They could not be 
stirred by offers of economic independence ; it was a higher ideal to 
have husbands take care of their wives than have them battle for 
themselves. She was certain no inspiration was to be found in that 
quarter. 

Then, with eyes sparkling, she added, "But when the message of 
birth control came to us from Honolulu, like the lightning we under- 
stood its meaning, and now we are all awakened." 

We were served with tea, and I continued to await a reply from 
Mr. Skidmore, but none ever came. Finally, at seven-thirty, due to 
the British Mr. Wilson's intercession, the Imperial Government at 
last opened its gates to me without the sponsorship of my own Gov- 
ernment. 

I still had to go through Customs. Papers and books, including 
forty copies of Family Limitation, were confiscated. Thereafter I 
usually left spaces in my diaries instead of writing out names, because 
I never knew who was going to see them. 

The Customs men further minutely examined my clothes, acces- 
sories, even necklaces and ornaments, holding them up, laughing at 
them, calling each other to come and look, in order to inform them- 
selves as much on the composition and design as to determine whether 
they were dutiable. The data they gleaned thus from incoming travel- 
ers they stored away like squirrels — and cheaply-manufactured rep- 



322 MARGARET SANGER 

licas shortly appeared on Woolworth counters, stamped in purple 
ink, "Made in Japan." 

When I emerged, tired and damp, more crowds pressed around 
seeking autographs. Everywhere in Japan people wanted your signa- 
ture. One man, who spoke some English, said he represented the 
Ricksha-men's Union and apologized for the trouble to which I had 
been put. "Sometime Japanese Government he little autocratic." For 
that matter everybody apologized for the Government. 

After the torrents of rain, logs blazing in fireplaces warmed us in 
the Ishimotos' charming house at Tokyo. Grant and I were both in a 
large room, almost bare of furnishings, exquisite in its simplicity. 
The fragile walls of painted silk gave an impression of airiness. 

Next to us was the huge bathroom, the floor and lower walls of 
burnished, shining copper. In the center, raised on legs, stood a great 
wooden tub with a top that closed down, and a hole for your neck. 
Five or six basins were ranged around the room and, beside each, 
brush and soap. You were supposed to scrub and scrub and then rinse 
by throwing pans of water over you. Finally you entered the steaming 
tub to relax. It was not etiquette to leave any trace of soap in the 
bath or any evidence of its use, because everybody in the family 
soaked in that water before the night was over — guests, hosts, and 
servants in order. 

I sank gratefully on one of the mattresses borrowed for our com- 
fort and laid on the floor ; the rest of the household slept on mats with 
wooden blocks in place of pillows, a custom which allowed the ladies 
to keep their coiffures intact for a week at a time. Through the frail 
partitions we could hear the servants laughing and chatting until 
late into the night, men and women together, carrying on their bath- 
ing as though it were a function of eating. 

Our days were tremendously busy, beginning early with the ring- 
ing of the antiquated telephone on the wall. People came silently in 
rickshas and departed after conversing with the Baron and Baroness. 

Old Japan had extended esthetics into the realm of ordinary exist- 
ence, and undoubtedly had produced a thing of beauty. The gestures of 
ceremony might have meant little, but they made delightful the ar- 
ranging of any affair whatever. The Japanese always greeted each 
other with a bow from the waistline, hands gliding down to the knees. 



9 ALIEN STARS ARISE 323 

The difference between one and another was so subtle that a foreigner 
could hardly distinguish it, but it was there all the same. A particular 
mark of respect was the triple bow, graduated according to the social 
rank — an inclination, a slight pause, a deeper inclination, again a 
pause, and then down further until the back was nearly horizontal. 

Grant, who was very affectionate, had been accustomed to kiss me 
when we met, whether it were in a restaurant, hotel, on the street, 
or anywhere else for that matter. But he had to forego this salute in 
Japan when we observed that kissing was a shock to Japanese sensi- 
bilities, and, indeed, was considered immoral. Instead, he took over 
Japanese manners and became marvelously courteous. Practically 
every time he spoke to me he made the three bows, and unconsciously 
I soon found myself returning them with equal formality. 

Politeness in behavior, impersonal and ritualistic, was most notice- 
able in those relationships where we naturally expected habitual and 
conventional reserve to be thrown aside. When the Baroness Ishi- 
moto's mother and sister were coming for lunch, she donned a special 
kimono, set out special vases and screens, greeted them with the pre- 
scribed bows, wordings, and gestures. Even I noticed the civilities 
accorded the two were not the same. The effect was that the mother 
occupied the place of honor as though she were receiving. 

Men came also to the Ishimotos' to plan for the various meetings 
and entertainments. A member of the House of Lords telephoned to 
say he was a "disciple." The press sought interviews. Early in my 
career I had realized the importance of giving clear, concise, and 
true concepts of birth control to those who wished to quote me. This 
simple policy served my purpose particularly well in the Orient, where 
technical phrases in English were hopelessly confusing. Under any 
circumstances our language was peculiarly difficult for the Japanese, 
and their phraseology was sometimes convulsingly funny. One letter 
from a dismissed government employee to the head of his department 
was making the rounds of Occidentals in the East : 

Kind Sir, on opening this epistle you will behold the work of a de- 
jobbed person, and a very bewifed and much childrenized gentleman, 
who was violently dejobbed in a twinkling by your goodself. For 
Heaven's sake, sir, consider this catastrophe as falling on your own 
head, and remind yourself on walking home at the moon's end to 



324 MARGARET SANGER 

savage wife and sixteen voracious children with your pocket filled 
with non-existent pennies and pity my horrible state. When being de- 
jobbed and proceeding with a heart and intestines filled with misery 
in this den of doom, myself did greedily contemplate culpable homi- 
cide, but Him who protected Daniel (poet) safe through the Lion's 
den will protect his servant in this home of evil. As to reason given 
by yourself esquire for my dejobment the incrimination was laziness. 

NO SIR. It were impossible that myself who has pitched sixteen 
infant children into this vale of tears can have a lazy atom in his 
mortal frame, and a sudden departure of eleven pounds has left me 
on the verge of the abyss of destitution and despair. 

I hope this vision of horror will enrich your dreams this night and 
good Angel will meet and pulverize your heart of nether millstone 
so that you will awaken and with such alacrity as may be compatible 
with your personal safety, and will hasten to rejobulate your servant. 

So mote it be, Amen, 

Yours despair fully, 

Akono Subusu 

And on the bottom of the letter the district officer had noted : 

Gentle Reader, do not sob — 
Akono Subusu has been re jobbed. 

I myself had a letter from a gentleman who wrote, "How I am 
unavoidably in need to execute your 'Ism' and hope to know your 
effective method." 

Had it been allowed, I should have given forth practical informa- 
tion. Since it was not, I believed if I could make plain to the author- 
ities that I was not going to break this rule in my lectures, they could 
find no fault with them. 

Accordingly, the morning of our second day in Tokyo an appoint- 
ment was made with the Police Governor. In spite of the early hour 
the hard little official, his close-cropped hair revealing all the bumps 
and developments, served us tea. The Japanese always handed you 
tea as we pass cigarettes — in embarrassment, for relaxation, or just 
to tie up loose moments. Disregarding the vital subject completely we 
discussed current topics through an interpreter. Though all the people 
were intensely serious, they were remarkably fond of plays on words. 
Merrily I was told my name had created much confusion owing to its 
similarity to sangai san, which meant "destructive to production." 



- ALIEN STARS ARISE 325 

Birth control was thus delicately introduced. For the first time I 
heard about the Dangerous Thought Law, which had been sponsored 
in Parliament by a group called the "Thought Controllers," who 
aimed to exclude from the country all ideas not conforming to ancient 
Japanese tradition. The Police Governor assumed he knew exactly 
what I had planned to talk about, and I could not move him from the 
conviction that I wanted to present a Dangerous Thought. 

I was not, however, going to let the matter drop. I went higher up 
to the Home Affairs Office. A courteous gentleman informed me the 
Minister sent his regards and hoped to have the pleasure of seeing me 
some other time. There was no tea. I was politely bowed out. 

My next stop was at the Kaizo office, where the entire staff was 
called into consultation. They were bristly and burly enough to be 
taken for Russians ; only their kimonos identified them as Japanese. 
One and all decided we should go in person to the Imperial Diet. 
There, on presentation of our cards, couriers started running around 
to find the Chief. In a few moments the door of the room into which 
we had been ushered was opened, and in came the very same man 
with whom I had conversed at the Home Office that morning. Pro- 
foundly embarrassed I explained this was the way of impatient Amer- 
icans, who were bent on hurrying things along. He was very kind, 
and said he had been on the point of giving me permission to speak 
publicly provided I did not mention birth control. When I sketched 
an outline of a possible population lecture we laughed and agreed the 
Empire of Japan was not, as a result, going to fall. 

Almost from the time of landing I had been deeply conscious that 
I was in one of the most thickly populated countries of the world. 
The Ishimotos' automobile honked, honked, at every turn of the 
wheels to squeeze through rickshas, pedestrians, and children in the 
narrow, unpaved streets. 

In any traffic danger the first concern was always for the baby. I 
never saw one slapped, struck, scolded, or punished. I never heard one 
cry; they all seemed happy and smiling, though I must admit a few of 
them needed to have their little noses wiped. I could not believe any 
country could contain so many babies. Fathers carried them in their 
arms; mothers carried them in a sort of shawl; children carried 
babies; even babies carried smaller babies. I saw a land of one-story 



326 MARGARET SANGER 

houses but of two-story children. Boys with babies on their backs 
were playing baseball, running to bases, the heads of the babies wob- 
bling so that you thought their necks were surely going to be broken. 

The momentum that had come from the high birth rate was felt 
in every walk of life. Peers, business and professional men were all 
having large families. One told me he wanted twenty children. When 
I asked him how many he had already he replied, "Two," and he 
was offended when I suggested that perhaps his wife, instead of him- 
self, had had those. 

The density of population in tillable areas of Japan averaged two 
thousand human beings to the square mile, and it was increasing at 
the rate of almost a million a year. Although they built terraced rice 
paddies on their hillsides with tremendous labor they could not feed 
themselves. Furthermore, lacking ore, petroleum, and an adequate 
supply of coal, they could not develop their industries to a point where 
they could exchange their products for enough food. 

The Government should itself have been disseminating contracep- 
tive information, but the army faction was not friendly to it and 
claimed Japan could never be respected in the eyes of the world until 
she possessed a force sufficiently powerful to make might right. It 
was even then too late for birth control to offset the inevitability of 
her overflowing her borders; the population pressure was bound to 
cause an explosion in spite of the safety valve of Korea. How long 
this could be delayed was a matter of pure conjecture. 



Chapter Twenty-six 



THE EAST IS BLOSSOMING 



*J2v *JJv *m *^)v w? w/ wJ w? wJ vJy v»v vJy vJv vK* vK* vK* vK* Cw (w vK* w (w vw CK* vw vK* 

A FTER I found out where I stood with the Government, the silent 
X~\. friends who had come and gone so frequently from the Ishimoto 
home produced plans for various meetings. In each one the address 
was to a particular class which did not mingle with others — commer- 
cial, educational, medical, parliamentary. 

The Kaizo group were intensely disappointed that I could not de- 
liver the lectures I had prepared and for which they had invited me 
to Japan. As a compromise we agreed that I should have to focus 
my War and Population talk around Germany and the Allies. It was 
going to be difficult, because I was not satisfied with the European 
facts and figures I had. 

My first meeting was at the Tokyo Y.M.C.A. Shortly before one 
o'clock I was escorted with great ceremony into a room behind the 
auditorium, pungent with smoke from a charcoal stove. Then I was 
presented to a gathering of about five hundred — prosperous-looking 
men, well-dressed women, students, a number of foreigners, a Bud- 
dhist priest or two, and a liberal sprinkling of the Metropolitan Police 
to make certain my audience thought no dangerous thoughts as a 
result of my speech. 

Most of the auditors apparently understood some English, because 
while I was speaking they leaned forward attentively, laughing in the 
proper places, but when I paused for the translation they relaxed, 
rustled papers, and whispered to each other. 

I had discovered that the five-hour clause in my contract was no 

327 



32B MARGARET SANGER 

mistake and no joke. Standing from one until six was a frightful 
strain. The lecture with interpretations took three hours, although I 
could have delivered it in one, and questions took two more. Many 
of these were on subjects entirely alien to my own. "What do you 
think of missionaries ? What do you think of Christianity ? Are you 
yourself a Christian?" This last was naively posed, and, thoroughly 
aware of the significance of what it meant truly to be a Christian, I 
replied, "I'm afraid I'm not a very good one." 

My questioner put out his chest and said confidently, "I am." 

I seemed to recall my adolescence when I had exacted the last ounce 
of righteousness from every breathing hour. Many of the Japanese 
converts had this spirit. They were trying to change their ancestral 
ideas of morality and, instead, adopt wholesale the Christian code 
without having had time to assimilate it. 

The most painful experience I had in Japan was in addressing the 
Tokyo medical association. The volunteer interpreter was a young 
doctor who had been on a three weeks' tour of America, and his com- 
mand of English was correspondingly slight. From the attitude of 
the audience I could tell whenever he was not conveying my meaning 
as I had intended it, though I did not always know what specifically 
was wrong. The Baroness, unable to bear his mis-translation of 
"prevention of conception" as abortion, which she knew would dis- 
tress me intensely, finally rose and attempted to correct the erroneous 
impression he was giving. But the meeting was over before she could 
make it clear., 

Nothing had been said about remuneration. I expected none. But 
the next day an army of ten rickshas appeared. The officers of the 
society, laden with packages and bundles, presented themselves. One 
by one they offered boxes in which I found an elaborate kimono, an 
embroidered table cover, a purse, a fan, a cloisonne jar, and, in con- 
clusion, the President offered me the smallest package of all, wrapped 
in tissue and tied with a paper tape on which were the characters wish- 
ing me health, happiness, and longevity. Opening it I found crisp new 
bills in payment. This delicate gesture was typically Japanese. 

At other meetings we usually sat on clean, fresh mats ; the room 
might be chilly, but a little charcoal burner was beside you and occa- 
sionally you warmed your hands over it. I liked the service and the 



THE EAST IS BLOSSOMING 329 

food which the maids silently brought all at once on a tray, covered 
over and steaming hot. After sake in diminutive porcelain cups the 
group was ready to converse, and it was cozy and interesting. Often 
we did not get away until midnight because, although the discussion 
was carried on in English, each remark was translated for the benefit 
of those who did not understand. The Baroness always went with me, 
and it was a revelation to them to have one of their own country- 
women present. 

I had heard much talk of the Elder Statesmen, but nobody at the 
Peers' Club, where I gave an afternoon address, seemed to be even 
elderly. They were curious to know why women were divorced, 
whether they wanted more than one husband, whether they really 
could ever care for more than one man, the nature of their love for 
children, how long it could continue. They were like Europeans in the 
frankness with which they regarded the relationship of the sexes. Yet 
they were not satisfied with the accepted Japanese tradition — on the 
one hand geisha girls who played and coquetted and amused them, 
and on the other wives whose place as yet was definitely in the home. 
They asked, "Is it not true that the American woman can be all things 
to her husband — his companion, mother of his children, mistress, 
business manager, and friend?" 

I agreed with them that this was the ideal, but had to confess that 
by no means every American wife fitted into this picture. 

Many of the Japanese had themselves forgotten that in the heroic 
and epic days women had enjoyed freedom and equality with men. 
Only with the rise of the powerful military lords in the Eighth Cen- 
tury had this most rigid, most persistent, and most immovable dis- 
crimination arisen. 

The Ona Daigaku, the feudal moral code, counseled : 

A woman shall get up early in the morning and go to bed late in 
the evening. She must never take a nap in the daytime. She shall be 
industrious at sewing, weaving, spinning, and embroidery. She shall 
not take much tea or wine. She shall not visit places of amusement, 
such as theaters or musicals. She must never get angry — she must 
bear everything and always be careful and timid. 

The resultant upper-class Japanese lady, exquisite and decorative, 
was a living work of art particularly created by the imagination of 



330 MARGARET SANGER 

numberless generations of men. My original conception of all Jap- 
anese women had been fashioned out of romantic fallacies — partly 
by the three little maids from school who simpered through the 
Mikado, and to no small extent by the gaudy theatricalism of Mad- 
ama Butterfly. The unrestrained exoticism of Pierre Loti and Laf- 
cadio Hearn had strengthened my illusions, as had also the color 
prints that had aroused so much enthusiasm towards the end of the 
century. 

But I soon found the cherry blossom fairyland was being de- 
stroyed by the advent of machinery. In Yokohama and Kobe you 
heard factory whistles and saw tall smokestacks, new shipyards, and 
great steel cranes. The Industrial Revolution, accomplished in our 
Western countries gradually, had invaded the Island Empire with an 
impact and a shock the repercussions of which were still evident. It 
had not brought freedom to the women whose low status was admira- 
bly suited to the purpose of manufacturing with its ever-increasing 
demand for cheap and unskilled labor. 

Practically half the female population, some thirteen millions, were 
engaged in gainful occupation though few were economically inde- 
pendent. In the mill districts mothers scolded their small daughters by 
threatening, "I'll sell you to the weavers." These kaiko, or "bought 
ones," served as apprentices generally from three to five years. Mod- 
ern Japanese industrialism had been able to take advantage of an 
ancient Oriental habit of thought which placed slight value on the girl 
child. 

I spent half a day as the guest of the Kanegafuchi plant, the largest 
cotton mill in the Empire and the ideal industrial institution which 
was to be a model for others, comparing favorably with one of our 
best. But Kanegafuchi was the exception. On the average, employees 
in other mills worked a twelve-hour shift, day and night, amid the 
deafening roar of relentless power engines. Dust and fine particles 
of fabric fell like minute snowflakes upon them. Their growth was 
stunted, their resistance to infection and malignant disease broken 
down. In a silk-spinning mill at Nagoya conditions were only slightly 
better. I found over seven hundred girls, some no more than ten 
years of age, swiftly twirling off the slender threads from the co- 
coons and catching them on the spindles. They were pathetic, gentle, 



THE EAST IS BLOSSOMING 33 1 

homeless little things, imprisoned in rooms with all windows closed 
to keep them moist and hot. A quarter of their seven dollars a month 
wages had to go for board. 

Only by the graciousness and charity, in a sense, of the upper 
classes were the household servants saved from institutions. When 
the Baroness, for example, had married, some of them — cooks, 
maids, and nurses — had stayed with her parents, some had gone to 
another sister, some had come to her and been set to training the new 
ones. With her they had a home for life. This system accounted in 
part, at least, for the fact there were no beggars or mendicants in 
Japan. 

Essentially conservative, essentially the product of a strange and 
scarcely understood past, the Japanese woman in my opinion did not 
possess in her typical psychology any strong leanings towards rebel- 
lion. This was true even among the many women writers on papers 
and magazines. Those who interviewed me were intelligent, but I 
was constantly amazed at their ancient and domesticated outlook. 

I did not believe the woman of Japan would discard her beautiful 
costume or sacrifice her esthetic sense upon the altar of Occidental 
progress and materialism. The kimono was her chrysalis. Outwardly 
it was often of some thick serviceable goods, dull brown or black, 
shot through with threads of purple or blue. Yet underneath were 
silks of the brightest and most flaming hues, formalized for each par- 
ticular occasion. Only a fleeting glimpse was caught of these as she 
walked. They were symbolic of her present position in society. 

From the lowest serving maid to the finest aristocrat, certain in- 
delible traits immediately impressed themselves. First of all was the 
low, soft, fluttering voice, like art and music combined. They were too 
modestly shy to talk out loud ; you could scarcely hear them in a small 
room. Perhaps one reason men did not take their opinions seriously 
was because they did not speak up. I heard on every side of the New 
Woman — but I never saw her. Only those who had turned Christian 
showed any signs of thinking independently. To be a Christian 
seemed to imply being a rebel or radical of some kind. They told me 
it with great secret pride. 

This was the single place where I had found men rather than 
women responding to the potentialities of birth control. The former 



332 MARGARET SANGER 

wanted to learn and thereby make of themselves something better. 
They were more and more in touch with the ideas of .the Western 
world, and were broadening themselves through travel.] I was con- 
fident a shifting environment was going to extend the masculine point 
of view and, if birth control could be proved of benefit to them, they 
would practice it. At that time I did not agree that East and West 
could never meet. 

Japan was undoubtedly a man's country. Wherever we went, Grant 
was Exhibit A. He was a tall, dark, rather gawky youth, with ado- 
lescent manners but always cheerful. In private houses butlers and 
maids paid him much attention, and, in hotels, as soon as we entered 
the dining room everybody, because he was a man child, rushed to 
anticipate his wishes, to see that he was made comfortable. I straggled 
on behind. At our first appearance in one of these, the little girls who 
were being trained as waitresses and whose duty it was to bow the 
guests in and out were obviously confused. When we were seated at 
the table the proprietor apologized, "You must excuse them because 
they are so young, and they have their minds too much on this young 
gentleman." 

The Yoshiwara, to which some missionaries escorted me, was cer- 
tainly an integral part of this man's world. First we visited the un- 
licensed quarter, winding in our rickshas among alley-like streets lined 
with small houses. The dark eyes of the girls peered out through slits 
in the screen walls. Working men were standing in the muddy road- 
ways, chattering, scrutinizing the prices which were posted in front 
like restaurant menus — so much per hour, so much per night. A door 
opened to admit a visitor. The light in the lower story vanished and 
soon another twinkled upstairs; or a light went out above and re- 
appeared below, the door opened again and a figure emerged. Hun- 
dreds of lights behind paper windows seemed to flicker on and off 
constantly, low to high, high to low. The sordidness, the innumerable, 
shining eyes made me shiver involuntarily. 

After we crossed a bridge to the licensed quarter the scene changed 
immediately. The wide thoroughfare, with a row of trees down the 
center festooned with electric globes like a midway, was clean and 
inviting. The amply-built houses had an air of spaciousness and lux- 
ury, their lanterns sent out a soft, alluring gleam, and carefully culti- 



THE EAST IS BLOSSOMING 333 

vated gardens produced a profusion of flowers in the courtyards. 
This part of the Yoshiwara appeared a delightful place. Its attraction 
for the girls was obvious ; they would rather seek a livelihood in this 
fashion than in the dismal factories. Nor was it odd that they 
should find more romance here with many men than drudging for 
one all their days as the "incompetents" they became after marriage 
under the domination of their mothers-in-law. 

Through portals as broad as driveways the patrons, much better 
dressed than those in the unlicensed quarter, strolled up to view the 
photographs of the inmates, posted like those in the lobby of a 
Broadway theater. In some frames was only the announcement, 

" just arrived, straight from . No time for picture." The 

clients did a great deal of "window shopping." Newcomers from the 
country might have eight or nine visitors an evening, an older one 
but two or three. Many of the girls came from good families, fre- 
quently to lift their fathers or brothers out of debt. They sent their 
earnings back and, as soon as they had accumulated a sufficiency, 
often went home, married, and became reputable members of society. 

But in spite of the Yoshiwara's artificial glamour, the crowd of men 
swarming like insects, automatically reacting to the stimulus of in- 
stinct, was unutterably depressing. 

We walked home at midnight through the sleeping city, mysterious 
and quiet, not like a city at all — no jumping signs or illumination, 
but more like a nice, low-ceilinged room trimmed with old, brown- 
stained oak, and only here and there a glow. 

Nothing else in my travels could compare with that month in 
Tokyo. The language was strange and unfamiliar. The bells in the 
shafts of the rickshas, ringing for pedestrians to get out of the way, 
added a bizarre note. The queer, clicking sound of the wooden geta 
was different although somewhat reminiscent of the clop, clop, of the 
Lancashire wooden shoes, which also were taken off at the door and 
exchanged for slippers. All the smells and the sights were quite new, 
even the signs on the shops were unreadable. In Europe, you could 
usually guess from some root word what kind of merchandise was 
for sale within. But not so in Japan. One day I stopped, totally puz- 
zled, to inquire the whereabouts of a store the address of which had 
been written down for me. I showed my slip of paper but nobody 



334 MARGARET SANGER 

there could help me. I went on. Fully three minutes later the pattering 
of hurried steps behind me caused me to turn. Here was one of the 
clerks. He had gone to the trouble of looking up the address I had 
asked for and had come to act as guide to make sure I arrived. 

Throughout Japan the custom of greeting you and seeing you off 
was touching, and gave you a charming remembrance of a world 
where friendships were worth time and consideration. When a Tokyo 
doctor heard I was leaving Yokohama eighteen miles away at eight 
o'clock in the morning, he presented himself at seven to bring me a 
box of choice silk handkerchiefs. He must have risen at five to do so. 

From the window of the train for Kyoto the faces of the old men 
trudging along the road looked curiously like the drawings of them. 
Everywhere were small village houses and, since I could see through 
from front to rear, I wondered where the peasants and their numer- 
ous offspring ate and slept. 

The former capital was fascinating. The shopkeepers appeared to 
esteem their visitors more highly than the goods they had to sell, 
though Kyoto blue and, more especially, Kyoto red were like no 
other colors anywhere. If ever you see the latter, buy it if you can, 
cherish it among your treasures, save it for your children, because it 
is the most beautiful of all reds. 

It was now April, the festival of spring and of the geishas, the jeal- 
ously guarded and chaperoned entertainers, singers, players. Every- 
body was anticipating the flowering of the cherry trees, and with the 
rest of Kyoto I went to see the enormous, spreading, willow cherry, 
then in dazzling white blossom. It was several hundred years old, 
its limbs which grew out and drooped towards the ground were 
propped up with care, and around it was a superbly groomed land- 
scape garden. The proprietors of hotels near such trees erected un- 
pretentious tea houses, temporary in character, where hundreds of 
people kept vigil. You could not help having respect for a people 
whose love of a tree brought them from miles away and who waited 
day and night throughout the duration of its brief blooming. They 
paid deference to it as they did to a great artist who they knew could 
live just so long. 

The Japanese designed their gardens with the mood of the individ- 
ual in mind. Some were filled with music, water, birds, activity, and 



THfe EAST IS BLOSSOMING 335 

there you could go to be cheered when gloomy and despondent. As 
soon as I entered the Golden Temple grounds its influence fell upon 
me. Everything was planned for thought and concentration. No 
color, no noise, no rushing of water, no singing birds distracted the 
attention. Only at certain hours could you even walk about, because 
movement was disturbing to meditation. 

Japanese hospitality reached its finest flower in Kyoto, and the su- 
preme day of entertainment was offered by a generous and consid- 
erate doctor. On inviting me to luncheon he said he would call with 
his car at ten in the morning. This seemed a bit early, but it appeared 
he wanted me first to visit the Museum of Art. Here was no wander- 
ing through miles of rooms so that the eye was wearied and no last- 
ing impression was gathered. Instead, I was shown only the one most 
prized specimen of paintings, porcelains, and rare screens. After- 
wards, I was ushered into the library to see a collection of precious 
manuscripts, then back through the city for a few especially renowned 
views, and finally at noon to the doctor's home. His wife and two 
daughters greeted me and I was introduced to the guests. Little short- 
legged trays were put before our floor cushions, and we all picked up 
our chopsticks. I envied Grant his dexterity. 

After the trays had been removed, we conversed until the business 
men had to return to their offices. But a fresh group of guests took 
their places, and with them appeared a painter. An easel was set up 
and each of us in turn made a single brush line on the rice paper — 
some straight, some curved, some vertical, some horizontal, criss- 
crossing each other in every direction. Then the artist took his 
brush and, amid exclamations of wonder and appreciation, with a 
few expert strokes converted the melange into a flower pattern, a lake, 
or a mountain. 

An hour or so of this pleasure and the easel was swished away, 
the painter vanished with his colors, and a sculptor was substituted. 
We were now supplied with dabs of clay which we began to mold, 
the sculptor going from one to another to give assistance. If you were 
clever, as several of the Japanese were, works of art resulted. I 
created a plain jug with handle and lip, was taught how to draw a 
design upon it and how to paint it. Next day it was delivered to me, 
baked and glazed. 



336 MARGARET SANGER 

Later we were escorted to the garden where we congregated be- 
neath an open tea house perched high on a rock. There the younger 
daughter tended a tiny- fire and brewed a ceremonial tea — no simple 
brew, but leaves of a special sort, beaten until the beverage was bright 
green. When we had enjoyed this delight we strolled about, admir- 
ing the brooklets, the dwarf pines, the shrubs, the iris in bloom. 

We returned to the house to find, as though in a play, that the 
scenery had all been changed. Different screens were up, fresh flow- 
ers in the vases, the women of the household in more elaborate cos- 
tumes, and new visitors waiting. Grant and I alone seemed to remain 
static. 

Now on the immaculate matted floor appeared little charcoal stoves. 
The evening meal was served by the mother and daughters as a 
marked honor to their guests. This time I was brought a spoon and 
fork; apparently I had not been very deft at lunch in handling my 
chopsticks. After dinner came yet more people and yet more conver- 
sation. I had been talking steadily since early morning, the topic be- 
ing selected according to the type of gathering. In the evening it was 
population, and more serious. Sometimes I forgot myself and spun 
out involved English phrases, then, realizing they had missed fire, 
had to go back and choose key words more easily comprehended. 

This continued until midnight or later. At last we had to excuse 
ourselves and ask to be taken home, because we were leaving for 
Kobe the next morning. 

The doctor and his wife, accompanied by some of their friends, 
were at our hotel betimes, all with boxes and bon voyages. This re- 
versal of the Occidental custom of bestowing presents on one's host 
or hostess was an enchanting way of conducting the amenities of life. 
They wanted no return for their hospitality. I had arrived in Japan 
with one small trunk and departed with five, laden with gifts. 



Chapter Twenty-seven 



ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH 



• ? » •? » •>» ■?» •;» ■?» ■)>? ■?» ■?» ■?» ■?» ■?» ?» g«- ast g<- egg- («■ go gfr g& gg- go g o < « • « c - 

NEW and different places, strange countries, peoples, and faces 
have always appealed to me. I did not have to be in London 
for the Fifth International Conference until July. When I had se- 
cured my Chinese visa it had occurred to me that it might be much 
better to go on around the world than retrace my steps. 

On a misty day, the sun not bright enough to clear the sky com- 
pletely, we sailed from Kobe through the glorious Inland Sea, threaded 
its innumerable islets, like the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence, 
only more delicate. The boat was small and out-of-date. A few of the 
English had chairs but Grant and I wandered between crates of ducks, 
chickens, and livestock, and hundreds of Japanese squatting stolidly 
on the deck. When we emerged into the Yellow Sea it became very 
foggy and Grant was sick to his toes. I put on a brave face and ate, 
though with long teeth, as the old phrase goes. 

We landed at Fusan one evening. Koreans stood about in their 
white robes which fell to their ankles, pale figures outlined against 
the night in the subdued light of their mysterious paper lanterns. The 
next morning as I glanced out over the countryside on the way to 
Seoul it appeared an Oriental desert, odd but seemingly familiar. I 
felt at home within its gates. White-robed coolies smoking long thin 
pipes with minute bowls drove oxen, worked in the fields. They had 
North American Indian faces, uncut, ragged hair, reddish skins, and 

337 



338 MARGARET SANGER 

curious, wooden structures strapped to their backs to carry burdens of 
any kind — soil, coal, rocks. 

The streets of Seoul were broad, dimly lit. The tall Korean men 
were unique, a combination of priest, patriarch, and grandee, so 
formal and elegant with their pointed beards a trifle larger than Van 
Dykes. They were utterly indifferent to other people, managing to 
preserve a proud and aloof air in spite of their idiotic, silly-looking 
hats, dinky-crowned and wide-brimmed, from which hung strings of 
amber beads, valuable family heirlooms. 

I wondered again at the universal white costumes. Everywhere on 
the banks of rivers women were eternally pounding laundry; you 
could almost feel the threads parting company with the terrific beat- 
ing — washing with stones and ironing with sticks. 

The Korean was held in contempt by the Japanese, who declared 
his Government had built schools, roads, railroads, brought cleanli- 
ness. It was true that the houses of the Koreans were not so well- 
kept, their habits not so sanitary, but they were a separate race, and 
they accepted scouring and scrubbing and sweeping only under pres- 
sure. Hatred and rebellion had been the result of denying them their 
language and customs. They claimed they were taxed out of existence 
to pay for such luxuries, and nourished antagonism and stubborn 
resistance against anything Japanese. They maintained further that 
they had no personal liberty, even being required to have passports 
to move about in their own country. 

Koreans also resented the speeding up of production in the silk 
factories through the exploitation of little girls. I saw them there, 
shoulders bent, crouched up over their work, hair braided down their 
backs ; they were almost like babies. Their job was to put their tender, 
delicate fingers into boiling water to pull out the silk cocoons — the 
hands of older people were not sensitive enough. But the Japanese 
said they did not feel the pain. 

Even though I had a large luncheon meeting attended by foreign 
missionaries and officials, Korea was but a stepping stone to China. 
The Celestial Kingdom had an indefinable odor of its own, peculiar 
and inimitable, which waxed and waned, varying with each city and 
with each district of a city. It might be a compound of sauces, onions, 



ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH 339 

garlic, incense, opium, and charcoal, but who has ever succeeded in 
putting an odor into words ? It marched upon you, at first faintly and 
indistinctly like a distant army, and then closed in relentlessly, associat- 
ing itself with memories, making you gasp in protest or pleasure. 

At Peking I wanted to change into fresh clothes all the time. I was 
haunted by dust — dust in my body, in my ears, up my nose, down 
my throat, between my teeth. Some of the streets were paved, but the 
dust was suffocating. After every sight-seeing sortie I bathed and 
bathed and bathed in a desperate effort to rid myself of the diabolical 
dust. 

We were seven days viewing palaces, native quarters, night life, 
sing-song girls, hospitals, factories, silk mills. We heard the mechan- 
ical chanting and beating of drums by Buddhist priests, mostly young 
boys dressed in soiled yellow robes; gazed with amazement at the 
funeral processions — great floats, fantastic gods, food, flowers, pos- 
sessions; visited old Chinese gardens and museums. I shopped for 
jade and lapis lazuli and was well cheated. 

Beggars, many of them crippled and on crutches, were hobbling 
along in the gutters or sitting on corners, gaunt and filthy. Children 
were turning handsprings, doing anything to attract your attention; 
they edged beside you, and you had the feeling they had been born 
with palms upward. 

You could not set foot out of doors without being besieged by 
ricksha boys clothed only in scant, cotton trousers and jackets, al- 
ways short at ankles and wrists. The moment you stepped in they 
picked up the shafts of their little vehicles and began the dogtrot 
journey. I could not become accustomed to the eager running of 
these half-naked creatures, so weak, so underfed, so much less able 
than the rest of us. It had been bad enough in Japan, but there you 
felt the runners were sturdy; in China they usually were suffering 
from varicose veins, heart disease, and, forever, hunger. Often, as 
the wind blew some of the rags and tatters aside, I saw pock marks 
and wondered how close we were to the manifold diseases of the 
Orient. 

I was going about a good deal and it worried me to be pulled 
around by a human being so emaciated. One morning our regular boy 



340 MARGARET SANGER 

was missing. Another replaced him, cheery and smiling. Three days 
later the first returned. He had been sick, he said ; he had had small- 
pox. The scabs had not yet peeled off. 

I spoke to the doorman at the hotel, whp managed the rickshas. 
"This boy is not well enough to work." 

"Oh, yes, he's used to it. He feels a little bad, but he's all right." 

Nevertheless, I sent him home to rest up. Nothing save famine and 
pestilence and plague seemed to give the Chinese any breathing spell. 
It was said the average ricksha coolie lasted but four or five years — 
the remainder of his life he merely subsisted. I was submerged in a 
strange despondency and questioned "the oldest civilization in the 
world" which still, after so many thousand years, permitted this bar- 
barism. 

Grant rode a donkey when we went to the Ming tombs, and the 
guide did also. I was carried in a chair for miles and miles through an 
arid, dusty plain. Two coolies held the lengthy bamboo poles on their 
shoulders and a third jogged alongside waiting to take his turn. I 
felt so sorry for^them I wanted to get out and walk. I wished I could 
carry myself. All the way these poor, starved creatures made animal 
noises, "Aah-huh, aah-huh," nasal, interminable, varying the tone but 
slightly ; even their words sounded like grunts to me. 

China was not yet past the story-telling age, as you saw in the 
theater, where someone recited the news from the stage ; for a copper 
anybody could hear what was going on in the world. The ancient 
classical forms of the Chinese language were intelligible to scholars 
alone, and Dr. Hu-Shih had been instrumental in devising a literary 
vernacular which the people could use. This philosopher who at three 
years old had been familiar with eight hundred characters, now in 
1922, while only in his late twenties, was already reputed to be the 
initiator of the Chinese Renaissance. He asked whether I would speak 
to the students of the Peking National University and, though he 
was to act as chairman, volunteered also to interpret, which I esteemed 
an almost unheard-of honor. His outlook, coinciding with mine, rec- 
ognized what birth control might mean for civilization. 

Dr. Tsai Yuen-Pei, the Chancellor of the University and a leader 
of the anti-Christian movement, had gathered into his fold the most 
brilliant students of Young China, all of them bubbling over with 



ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH 341 

interest at Western ideas, which were sweeping the globe. A great 
turmoil was going on in their lives and a revolt against rigid Chinese 
tradition. 

Due to the translation difficulties I had encountered in Japan, I 
had decided I could not afford to speak in China unless I went over 
the subject first with my interpreter and knew he understood the 
spirit as well as the words. Therefore I showed Dr. Hu-Shih my 
lecture material in advance. He suggested, "These students will want 
to know everything about contraception as it is practiced."} 

"But I've never given that except at medical meetings." 

"China is different from the West. Here you may discuss contra- 
ception as an educational fact as well as a social measure. You will be 
listened to respectfully, laughed at if you do not, and will surely be 
asked for definite information. I think you should prepare yourself 
for this." 

It was not simple to digress from principles and theories and go 
into methods that needed diagrams and technical knowledge to se- 
cure understanding, and I felt diffident about following his advice. 
But these young people, responsive and alert, received my first prac- 
tical lecture with earnest attention. Dr. Hu-Shih translated accurately 
and quickly, interjecting amusing stories and improving, I imagine, 
upon my own words. 

Afterwards he and I were escorted across the campus to the home 
of Dr. Tsai. I have always been interested in foreign foods. I like 
to try them out, and have brought home dozens of Hawaiian, Chi- 
nese, Indian, Japanese recipes which can be made at home. This 
dinner was an Arabian Nights experience. It began at seven and 
lasted until one in the morning — bird's-nest and quail egg soup, fried 
garoupa, ducks' tongues and snow fungus, roast pheasant, rice and 
congee, lotus nuts and pastry, sharks' fins, and various kinds of wine. 

There must have been well over thirty guests invited for the eve- 
ning, among them an American woman, Mrs. Grover Clark, whose 
husband was on the faculty of the University. Some of the students 
had been to her between the lecture and dinner time and given her 
the transcribed notes which they had taken down in shorthand. 
Would she correct them? They wanted to get the information pub- 
lished. When they came to the Chancellor's home to call for them so 



342 MARGARET SANGER 

that they could deliver them to the press, I could see at a glance that 
this was not at all what I desired to leave behind me; my spoken 
words never sound adequate or complete in print. Therefore, I sent 
a boy to the hotel for a copy of the old stand-by, ; Family Limitation. 
The students set to work at once to translate it. Mrs. Clark offered to 
pay the expenses, and the next afternoon five thousand copies were 
ready for circulation. 

This little incident was significant of Young China; an idea to 
them was useless if only in the head. Their motto was to put it into 
concrete reality. 

Symptomatic also of new China was the abandonment of bound 
feet, although women of advanced years still were to be seen leaning 
on each other for support as they tottered by. Amahs were carrying 
nurselings about when they themselves seemed scarcely able to stand 
up. However, I was glad to see only a few of the small children had 
these lily feet. Fathers realized their daughters could not earn a liv- 
ing if thus deformed. At the Peking Union Medical College, com- 
bining the modern equipment of the Occident with the artistry and 
traditions of the Orient, no girl was accepted for training unless her 
feet were normal. 

One day Dr. Hu-Shih asked me to lunch in an old Manchu restau- 
rant where his friends were accustomed to gather and ponder. Many 
were business or professional men, but all, with their little beards and 
intellectual faces, had the appearance of professors. It was an unusual 
combination of Wall Street and university. In our private dining 
room were seven English-speaking Chinese with families of from 
four to nine children. Each said the later ones had not been wanted ; 
nevertheless they had come. 

The conversation took a scientific turn. Since man had through 
breeding brought about such changes in the animal and vegetable 
kingdoms, why could he not produce a class of human beings unable 
to procreate? Was there any reason why the particular biological 
factors that made the mule sterile could not be applied further ? They 
discussed the interesting possibility of creating a neuter gender such 
as the workers in a beehive or ant hill. 

The implications of this colloquy formed a fascinating climax to 
our sojourn in Peking. Our train was the last one south for several 



ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH 343 

days. Soldiers cluttered the landscape — not alert or even military- 
looking, but men or boys put into uniform and told how to act. The 
Tuchuns were all trying to "unite" China, each in his own way. We 
read in the papers about the war clouds hanging over the country, 
but nobody seemed to be excited. We were not worried; being for- 
eigners, we were assured, meant protection. 

The valley of the Yangtze Kiang was green and luxuriant ; every 
inch of ground was being utilized. Even space which should have 
been employed for roads was given over to food production, and 
thousands of people were born, lived, and died in boats on the river. 
Some water buffalo waded in the mud of the rice fields, some horses 
worked the water treadmills, but human labor predominated. Over- 
population and destitution went hand in hand. In this land which 
Marco Polo once described as "a pleasant haven of silks, spices, and 
fine manners," all the hypothetical Malthusian bogeys had come true. 

Foreigners at the International and French Settlements of Shang- 
hai enjoyed much the same life as at home. Their hotels were the 
same, they met the same sort of people, dressed in the same clothes, 
ate the same meals ; in fact, it was difficult to get Chinese food unless 
you knew exactly where to go. They came in droves, herded together, 
most of them bored to death. You could see they had appropriated 
the best of everything — the houses with gardens and walls, the clean 
rickshas, the well-fed boys, the prosperity. The Chinese, in their own 
country, lived on what was left, which was practically nothing. They 
huddled wistfully on the fringes — horrible, abject, dirty. 

It amazed me to see that Americans, French, and English could be 
so near and yet close their eyes to the wretched, degrading conditions 
of devastating squalor in the native quarters. Once while a mis- 
sionary was guiding me through the Chinese City, we noted a crowd, 
children included, gathered in curiosity around a leper woman. She 
was on the ground, sighing and breathing heavily. Nobody offered to 
help her. "Maybe she's dying," said my companion. Just then the 
woman gave a fearful groan and took a baby from under her rags. 
She knew what to do, manipulated her thighs and abdomen, got the 
afterbirth, bit the cord with her teeth, put the baby aside, turned over, 
and rested. No trace of emotion showed on the faces of the watchers. 

In their respective countries Europeans would have made an effort 



344 MARGARET SANGER 

to improve such conditions. But here they seemed to have lost many 
of their former standards and qualities of character and conscience. 
It was said that China, psychologically speaking, swallowed up the 
morals of all those who came to reside there. 

One young American secretary related to me the joys of living 
in this section of the Orient. She said her salary was far smaller than 
any she would have received in the United States, but her comfort, 
on the other hand, far exceeded what she could have had in Boston 
at double her present wages. Among them she mentioned her ricksha 
boy, who cost her only five dollars a month, out of which he had to 
support himself and his enormous family. During the three years he 
had been working for her she had never raised his pay, nor did she 
ever expect to. He dared make no request, because in China it was 
almost impossible to get a job by one's self. When a servant was dis- 
missed he faced practical starvation. I really formed a bad impression 
of people who wanted to live in China because of the cheapness of 
its luxuries. 

The Grand Hotel was elegantly appointed, but the boys who 
served in the rooms did not seem friendly in their hearts towards any 
foreigners. Hostility was percolating throughout the country. Deep 
in the Chinese mind lay the memory of many invasions, of the Boxer 
Rebellion, and the intrusion of business men and, particularly, mis- 
sionaries. 

In Shanghai the American missionaries dominated Chinese educa- 
tion, such as it was. I was surprised to find families of eight or ten 
children the rule rather than the exception among them. Their sal- 
aries were raised with each new infant, and that may have been the 
reason. Nevertheless, there were many who wanted birth control in- 
formation. When they learned of my presence they called on the tele- 
phone, sent cards, came to see me. But, apparently apprehensive of 
criticism, they took me if possible into a secluded room or, if we had 
to meet in a public place, backed me into a corner and stood in front 
to conceal the fact they were talking with me ; they acted as though 
they were turning up their coat collars so that they should not be 
recognized. 

The only method of family limitation known to the poor Chinese 
was infanticide of girl babies by suffocation or drowning. The mis- 



ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH 345 

sionaries were co-operating with the Government, which had enacted 
a law forbidding the practice. They went from home to home to see 
whether any woman were pregnant. If one were obviously so, her 
name was jotted down in a notebook for a call soon after birth was 
due. At the same time both father and mother were informed of the 
severe penalty they would incur unless the baby itself or a doctor's 
certificate of death from natural causes were produced. After two 
years' work ninety-five percent of pregnant mothers showed either 
their babies or good reasons for not doing so. 

But the Chinese had so low a margin of subsistence that, if the 
law forbade them to dispose of one child, another was starved out. 
Sometimes two little girls had to be sold to keep one boy alive; 
in dire necessity even he might have to be parted with to some sonless 
man who wanted to ensure ancestor worship. Because the elder girls 
could begin to help in the fields or become servants in some rich 
landowner's household, usually it was the three- and four-year-olds 
who were turned over to brothels. There they stayed until mature 
enough to be set to working out their indenture. If they ever tried 
unsuccessfully to find freedom, the proprietors might beat them un- 
mercifully, sometimes even breaking their legs so that they could not 
walk, much less ever run away again. 

When infanticide was stopped, the corresponding increase in sing- 
song girls making their living by prostitution was almost immediately 
evident. \ It was estimated Shanghai had a hundred thousand. Many 
were Eurasians, the results of unions with white men who were in 
Shanghai on small salaries as representatives of foreign business 
firms. I glimpsed some of the Chinese women who had been bought 
as housekeepers and mistresses as well saying good-by at the train to 
their American or English masters summoned home. 

Desiring to see the worst of the city I went to the prostitute quar- 
ter in company with Mr. Blackstone, a missionary from the Door of 
Hope, a house of refuge for escaping girls. In Shanghai, as in Tokyo, 
we found in the Japanese section soft, low lights and an undercurrent 
of music in the air. The inmates were fully grown, gay and hearty, 
the interiors were immaculate and restrained in their decoration, the 
streets were swarming with sailors who apparently preferred this 
district to the depressingly dark and gloomy Chinese one near by. 



346 MARGARET SANGER 

Here and there the Chinese prostitutes could be seen through the 
open doorways, heavily rouged, gowned in vivid colors, limned like 
posters against the meanness of the background, their frail, slight 
bodies at the service of anyone who came. Each took her turn upon a 
stool outside, using her few words of English to attract the sailor 
trade. I thought I would never recover from the shock of seeing 
American men spending their evenings at such places with what were 
obviously children. 

In one house we found half a dozen girls looking much younger 
than their theoretical fifteen seated on hard benches around a room 
not more than six feet by nine. A little one holding high a lamp so 
that we should not trip and fall, escorted us to her cubicle, which 
had only a bed for furniture. A chair was brought in for me. 

Mr. Blackstone began to talk to her in her own dialect. Why had 
she come? 

"Too much baby home — no chow." She said she was sixteen and 
had been there since she was twelve. 

"Why she can't be a day over ten," I expostulated. 

The child was visibly frightened, aghast at her own loquacity. We 
might be from the Government. When we had at last gained her 
confidence, however, she responded eagerly to this unusual sympa- 
thetic contact, talking freely about herself — the long time it took to 
pay herself out, the precariousness and physical fatigue of her call- 
ing ; some days she had no visitors, but when a ship was in maybe as 
many as ten or twelve a night. She seemed as old as the ages in her 
knowledgeableness ; "No want baby," she told us. Yet her poor little 
frame had the immaturity of fruit picked green and left to shrivel. 

We gave her money and left in spite of her urgent and kind invi- 
tation to stay. 

All sing-song girls were not necessarily prostitutes; most hotels 
hired them to entertain guests. Only their lips were made up, their 
faces remaining pale. They wore flowers in their hair and although 
not so soft-voiced as the geisha had greater independence. Certainly 
their weird, shrill songs accompanied by the tinkle of a lute were 
not attractive to Western ears. 

Echoes of my visit to Japan had permeated throughout the colony 
of Japanese, who aimed to give me an extra-cordial welcome, trying 



ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH 347 

their best to make up for what they thought had been an unpleasant 
experience in their country. I had not realized the power of ancient 
feudalism over the Japanese woman until I met her away from home, 
where she blossomed into an intelligent, outspoken human being. I 
noticed she expressed herself much more frankly in the presence of 
men, but underneath the conversation I often sensed a propaganda 
which had resulted in deep prejudice; from the horrible stories you 
heard of the savagery of the Chinese you received the impression all 
were cannibals. 

Since my plans to include China in my itinerary had been made so 
late, I had few letters of introduction there. Consequently, to my re- 
gret I did not see many Chinese women. I had not expected to do much 
speaking and had had very little press in Peking. Dr. Hu-Shih, how- 
ever, had arranged for me to meet about fifteen newspaper men and 
women in Shanghai. We sipped our tea, nibbled our cakes, and then 
they began to ask questions, taking down the answers with the utmost 
care. They wanted to set forth the pros and cons of birth control in 
their own vernacular, but unfortunately could not reach the illiterate 
masses. They asked me to speak at the Family Reformation Associa- 
tion, an organization which was under missionary auspices. The rules 
were no smoking, no drinking, no gambling. Its membership, there- 
fore, remained small. 

The young woman who interpreted paragraph by paragraph had 
just returned from America, but did not prove the expert her traveling 
had indicated. The chairman said I was to give both theory and prac- 
tice, but when I came to the latter my translator's courage took flight 
entirely. She whispered, "I'll get a doctor to say that." I gave up and 
switched to something simpler. My audience, however, knew without 
her assistance what I had been trying to convey, and was much di- 
verted by her predicament. 

Of all lands China needed knowledge of how to control her num- 
bers ; the incessant fertility of her millions spread like a plague. Well- 
wishing foreigners who had gone there with their own moral codes to 
save her babies from infanticide, her people from pestilence, had 
actually increased her problem. To contribute to famine funds and the 
support of missions was like trying to sweep back the sea with a broom. 

China represented the final act in an international tragedy of over- 



348 MARGARET SANGER 

population, seeming to prove that the eminence of a country could not 
be measured by numbers any more than by industrial expansion, large 
standing armies, or invincible navies. If its sons and daughters left for 
the generations to come a record of immortal poetry, art, and philoso- 
phy, then it was a great nation and had attained the only immortality 
worth striving for. But China, once the fountainhead of wisdom, had 
been brought to the dust by superabundant breeding. 

This was my conclusion when at last we were back again in the 
modern age on the American ship Silver State bound for Hong Kong ; 
we had comfort, hot water, baths, heard the softness of the little chimes 
as the steward went through the corridors announcing meals. It was 
almost with a sense of awe that I asked for any service. After being 
some time in the Orient you were a bit embarrassed by having an 
American wait on you. Soon, however, the plumbers, the carpenters, 
the painters who kept the vessel trim, the sailors who swabbed down 
the decks at night, gave me a feeling that in the Western countries we 
had gone far towards dignifying manual labor. 



Chapter Twenty-eight 



THE WORLD IS MUCH THE SAME EVERYWHERE 



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V»V Vw ??? i/t Hi iii Hi iii iii iii iii iii iii »V* Vix* \Sv* VxS.* VSSr Vxv* Wvx' \W SSS? VvV Vxx VS.V* VfcV* 

A FAVORITE sales promotion method of astrologers is to send 
partial readings to people whose names appear in the papers, in 
the hope of piquing their curiosity to the point of demanding fuller 
details regarding their future lives and conduct. From time to time 
I used to receive these and paid no attention. But just before I had 
sailed from California a friend of birth control had sent me one based 
upon arrests and prison. This forecast told me I would have a great 
deal of difficulty in starting, and that on a certain day in May the 
same signs would prevail over my House as at the Town Hall Meeting 
— that I should, therefore, be prepared for police interference. 

While packing in Shanghai I was looking through my briefcase 
and happened to note that the date was one on which the Silver State 
would still be at sea ; she was not due at Hong Kong until the next day. 
I laughed to myself and said, "Here's where I prove it wrong." As it 
turned out, however, the ship was ahead of her schedule and arrived 
in Hong Kong twelve hours early. 

We were steaming up the long reach towards the Kowloon piers 
when, to my utter surprise, the immigration officer who had come on 
board handed me a notice instructing me to visit the Chief of Police. 

"Is this a special invitation for me, or is everybody included?" 

"Only for you, Madam," was the smiling response. 

The harbor was crowded with junks and fishing boats. Children in 

349 



350 MARGARET SANGER 

sampans were holding out nets for whatever might come overside, 
fishing up each bit of refuse from the water. Adjoining ships were 
being coaled by women coolies, hundreds of them, their faces strained 
and bodies stringy as though made up entirely of tendons. They carried 
their two baskets on bamboo poles across their shoulders, and clam- 
bered like ants in their bare feet over the barges — not singing as the 
men coolies of the North, but making much wallah-wallah — jabbering 
and shouting. 

After settling Grant in a hotel I took a chair from around the corner, 
because police headquarters was part way up the Peak, and rickshas 
could not negotiate the steep ascent. The Chief was not there. I in- 
quired whether anything were wrong with my passport. Since my 
British visa was perfectly correct, they said there must be some mis- 
take ; they had no information about any summons. I left my card. 

The next day the Chief called at my hotel but we missed each other 
because I was out with Grant ordering his first pair of long trousers. 
When I returned I found a calling card and another request to come 
to headquarters that afternoon. Again I obeyed, and again I found 
no Chief and no message for me. I left another card and the officials 
whom I had seen before laughingly reiterated they still knew of no 
complaints. 

"Well, I'm going tomorrow morning. If the Chief wants anything 
he'll have to come to the hotel." He never did. 

Once more we were off, this time on a British liner. The sea was 
smooth, the air cool. It was the ideal ocean voyage I had always longed 
for. I was relaxed and enervated but it was good to be so. I had nothing 
to do all day but sit in the glorious breezes on deck and watch the 
romping children, about fifty of whom were on board. Many had been 
born in the Orient and were accompanying "pater" who was going 
home on leave. One little boy might come tearing by pursued by an- 
other, both followed by anxious Chinese amahs, thin, dark, slick- 
haired, wearing glossy, black trousers and coats buttoned down the 
side. They seemed in constant distress over the antics of their ener- 
getic charges. 

When we dropped anchor at Singapore, agitation and excitement 
were again manifest among the inspectors at the sight of my passport. 
I was politely asked to stand by while they consulted, and then was 



THE WORLD IS MUCH THE SAME EVERYWHERE 35 1 

ushered off the ship to an upstairs office where I was questioned by a 
pleasant young Englishman as to my intentions in going to India. 

"But I'm not planning to stop in India." 

"Lectures by you are announced in Bombay and Calcutta." 

"This is the first I've heard of it," I assured him. "But if I were to 
go, would there be any objection?" 

"That would depend on the subject of your lectures." 

"I'm interested in only one subject." 

He pressed a button. Miraculously, almost like a scene from a mys- 
tery play, and as though everything had been rehearsed in advance, an 
attendant entered and placed on the desk a large, closely typewritten 
paper. 

"Am I on the blacklist?" 

"Not exactly, but you said you were interested in only one subject. 
Then what about this ?" He actually read me from that document de- 
tails of a small reception I had given five years before in my own 
apartment in New York for Agnes Smedley after her release on bail. 

For a moment I was speechless with amazement. Then I ejaculated, 
"Why shouldn't I be interested when she was arrested for a cause that 
is my own? Besides, you must remember the charge was later dis- 
missed." 

"Then what about serving on the Committee for the Debs Defence 
and for the Political Prisoners Defence ?" He mentioned other gather- 
ings I had attended during that parlor meeting era, such as when 
Mary Knoblauch had had Jim Larkin talk on Irish Home Rule or 
Lajpat Rai, the Indian sociologist, express anti-British tendencies. 
Wherever my name had appeared on the stationery of any committee 
he had it on his record. My public life was there spread out, showing 
how careful was British espionage. 

I brought forth from my arsenal some of my most trusty arguments, 
and the official ultimately agreed that if the vast millions of India 
wanted birth control he was all for my going there and would visa my 
passport. However, since I did not propose to include it in my trip the 
discussion was purely academic. 

Although Singapore when we reached it seemed to combine so many 
nationalities that it was like Europe, America, and the Orient all mixed 
together, Malays, whose land it once had been, appeared to be in the 



352 MARGARET SANGER 

minority and their dialect little used. I could not escape that fatal horo- 
scope, because when their language was described to me as easy and 
simple, the example given was mata. By itself it meant eye. But, mata 
mata, in addition to being the plural, also meant policemen, who were 
the eyes of the government, and mata mata glap meant secret eyes,' 
hence detectives. 

How Europeans made themselves understood in Singapore was a 
wonder to me. The Chinese ricksha boys apparently comprehended no 
tongue, nor knew where any place was. You stepped into a ricksha and 
pointed to where you thought your hotel was, praying your finger was 
extended in the right direction. If you did not point he ran in any 
direction of the compass. Even so, at the first corner he was inclined 
to turn into a more shady street. After a while, since he seemed to be 
arriving nowhere, you spoke to him sharply and he pulled up to a traffic 
officer, who told him where to go. Still pointing and saying "hotel" 
loudly, you eventually were delivered in front of the door by a 
much pleased coolie, grinning from ear to ear at his own cleverness. 
The poor fellows were so cheerful and willing that you could not help 
smiling, too. 

The weather continued balmy to Penang, to Ceylon, to Aden. I had 
been dreading the heat of the Red Sea, but the passage was surpris- 
ingly cool ; the facing wind was really enjoyable. 

At Cairo, where we made a longer pause, Grant came down with 
dysentery and his temperature shot to a hundred and four degrees. A 
Czechoslovakian doctor spent three nights with him but could not 
reduce the fever. Each morning when I rose early to act as nurse, I 
stumbled over about six natives, our own guide Ali among them, kneel- 
ing on prayer rugs in front of his door. All the fortune tellers had said 
a death was pending in Shepheard's Hotel and were assuming he would 
be the victim. The fourth day, after the doctor had gone to his office, 
I ordered a dish pan full of ice and sponged Grant off with the frosty 
water. Two hours later his temperature was normal and he began to 
show signs of recovering. I never divulged that cold bath to the doctor. 

Ali was a handsome, dark-faced Arab with large luminous eyes and 
fine-cut features which made American ones seem crude and weak in 
comparison. Wearing his long black robe to the ground and topped 
by a red fez, he used to come to his duties bearing great armfuls of 



THE WORLD IS MUCH THE SAME EVERYWHERE 353 

flowers from his mother. We held lengthy conversations. "Have you 
been married ?" I asked. 

"Yes, five times." 

"Weren't any of them happy ?" 

He began enumerating. The first one had been young and inexperi- 
enced ; she had not been properly brought up and did not know her 
position as his wife. Although she had cost him a hundred dollars, he 
had dispatched her to her parents because she was too independent. 
Number two had not been clean and had been too old for his mother to 
train; he had made amicable arrangements with her father for her 
return, and had lost no money on this transaction. Number three had 
been sickly, and a great expense ; she also had gone back. Number four 
had not loved him ; it had been shortly evident her heart was with an- 
other man and the agreement had been broken by mutual consent. 
Number five, the latest, he had sent home because she would not wait 
on his mother. 

"Why should she?" 

"Madam, my mother carried me in her belly for nine months. Should 
I have a wife who would not work for her after that ?" 

He was now casting about for his sixth. 

AH haunted our footsteps and, in order to collect his five percent 
commission on all our purchases, noted every place we went. Merchants 
made a social affair of their customers' calls. You went to a perfume 
shop in the Bazaar. The proprietor said, "Yes," sat down, and handed 
you a gold-tipped, aromatic cigarette. He lighted it for you, took out a 
pile of letters from a bag, and opened them for your inspection. They 
were testimonials that a certain gentleman had sent similar cigarettes 
to Hartford, Connecticut, or Pelham, New York. Of course, you 
bought some. Then a cup of Persian tea was brought you, and you 
wanted some of that. At last you recalled that you had come for attar 
of roses. By this time he had sensed your "aura" and knew what you 
could pay. He was willing humbly to mention the price. 

Our tour had been a wonderful experience for Grant. He had studied 
the Baedekers, planned our trips when we were coming to a new city 
or country, looked into their histories and, although he was only thir- 
teen, shown a highly awake and intelligent attitude towards every- 
thing we had seen. 



354 MARGARET SANGER 

He had had all sorts of wares hurled at him — ostrich feathers, fans, 
baskets, sapphires, scarabs. He was satiated with strange sights and 
lore — Buddha's Temple of the Tooth at Kandy, caravans of bullocks, 
the English club at tiny Port Swettenham in Malaya, the enormous 
porters of Egypt who picked up trunks as though they were handbags, 
women veiled and women unveiled, mosques, the Coptic church where 
Joseph and Mary were supposed to have hidden Jesus from Herod, 
the date trees along the road to Memphis, the underground Temple of 
the Bull, the remains of an old proud world at Alexandria where Cleo- 
patra had once held court, the primitive ferry-raft on which we had 
crossed the Nile to see the place where Moses had been found in the 
bullrushes, the wonderful ride, weird and lovely, across the Sahara to 
view the Pyramids and Sphinx. On his way to Switzerland he had 
traveled by gondola along the canals of Venice, had been trailed 
through the art galleries of Milan. 

After a few weeks at Montreux Grant was fully recovered, but he 
was now homesick for the first time since we had left New York eight 
months before. All he wanted was to see Tilden play in the tennis 
matches at Wimbledon, and then go home. Because I did not think he 
should miss the reception which H.G. was giving, I had him fly across 
the Channel to London, and afterwards, appreciating his longing to be 
among his own age and kind, I shipped him off on the maiden voyage 
of the Majestic to a camp in the Poconos. By the time he was back at 
Peddie he was up with his class, his mind vastly enriched, and able to 
approach his studies in a more mature manner. I have never regretted 
taking him with me. 

I myself remained in London for the Fifth International Neo- 
Malthusian and Birth Control Conference to be held July 11-14. The 
inclusion of the words birth control was a definite concession on the 
part of the Neo-Malthusians to the new trend of thought. It was a- 
delight to be amid conditions where tolerance reigned and the atmos- 
phere was unblighted by legal restrictions. The scientific candor of the 
discussion was reported in the newspapers with sincerity and sobriety. 

John Maynard Keynes, who had become famous almost overnight 
as the result of his book, The Consequences of the Peace, presided at 
one of the afternoon meetings. Later, I had lunch with him. He was 
tall and well-built, with clear, cold, blue eyes, a fine shapely head, brow, 



THE WORLD IS MUCH THE SAME EVERYWHERE 355 

and face, a brilliant bearing and brilliant intellect. I was impressed by 
the fact he did not smile. Because he gave each question of yours so 
much consideration, he seemed constantly perplexed, but when he once 
started to talk you knew he had already put aside the thing as having 
been solved, and gone on in advance. You were probably more puzzled 
at his next question than he at yours. 

In the two years that elapsed before I saw Keynes again he had 
married Lydia Lopokouva of the Russian Ballet. He had become an 
entirely different person — his serious mien and countenance had been 
changed to a buoyant, joyous happiness. His knowledge of the prob- 
lems of money, population, and economics were of a nature far above 
the grasp of an ordinary intelligence, yet in his conversation with his 
wife he always implied she knew the subject as thoroughly as he, and 
answered her queries as though their minds were together. He was 
the only Englishman, perhaps the only man, I ever knew to do this. 

Unlike Lydia Lopokouva, most women had a strenuous battle try- 
ing to prove themselves equal to men ; this marriage conflict was in- 
separable from modern life. I could sense it frequently when coming in 
contact with a married couple — on her part the years of rebellion, and 
on his of trying to put her down as a weakling. 

Sentiment has extolled the young love which promises to last 
through eternity. But love is a growth mingled with a succession of 
experiences ; it is as foolish to promise to love forever as to promise 
to live forever. 

To every woman there comes the apprehension that marriage may 
not fulfill her highest expectations and dreams. If in the heart of a 
girl entering this covenant for the first time there are doubts, even in 
the slightest degree, they are doubled and trebled in their intensity 
when she meditates a second marriage. 

J. Noah H. Slee, whom I had known for some time, was what the 
papers called "a staid pillar of finance." He was South African born 
but had made his fortune in the United States. In customs and exteriors 
we were as far apart as the poles ; he was a conservative in politics and 
a churchman, whereas I voted for Norman Thomas and, instead of 
attending orthodox services, preferred to go to the opera. 

An old-fashioned type of man, J.N. yearned to protect any type of 
woman who would cling. Complications, therefore, confronted us. I 



356 MARGARET SANGER 

had been free for nearly ten years, and, for as long, had been waging a 
campaign to free other women. I was startled by the thought of join- 
ing my life to that of one who objected to his wife's coming home alone 
in a taxi at night, or assumed she could not buy her own railroad 
- tickets or check her baggage. Nevertheless, despite his foibles, he was 
generous in wanting me to continue my unfinished work, and was 
undeterred by my warning that he would always have to be kissing me 
good-by in depots or waving farewell as the gangplank went up. 

I had to consider also that I had two boys to be educated, and that 
children were much more to a woman than to a man. Yet I knew he 
would be kind and understanding with them. Furthermore, he had 
faith both in individuals and in humanity; his naive appearance of 
hardness was actually not borne out in fact. He kept his promises and 
hated debts ; we attached the same importance to the spirit of integrity. 

Hundreds of people who scarcely knew me were delighted when the 
news of our marriage eventually became public. Within one week 
letters began to arrive from all over the United States and Canada. One 
man wrote he had helped me get up a meeting at San Francisco and 
now needed a printing press — would I mail him the trifling sum of 
three thousand dollars ? Another brought to mind I had had dinner at 
his home when lecturing in his city, and now that he had painted 
enough pictures to hold an exhibit, would I finance it? Dozens of 
ministers, old men, old ladies, writers, sculptors wanted me to set them 
up in business, musical concert work, bookshops, recalling the time 
they had taken me in cars to meetings, or that I had slept in their beds. 
Parents requested me to send their children to schools, to Europe, to 
sanatoriums — heaven knows what. I never knew people could need so 
much. I longed with all the desire in me to make out a check for every 
lack and wave a magic wand and say, "So be it." 

But all I could do was write back that I had no more wealth than 
before — my husband's was his own. And I still required as many 
contributions to birth control as ever. 

I had not wanted the worry or trouble of handling money, nor do I 
want it today. The things I valued then I value now, not for what they 
cost, but for what they are. To me dollars and cents are only messen- 
gers to do my bidding, and nothing more. To use them properly and 
get results is my responsibility. 



THE WORLD IS MUCH THE SAME EVERYWHERE 357 

When I asked J.N., "Why do you lock things up?" he replied, "I 
always do, don't you?" 

"Never. I haven't anything worth locking up." 

That is the way I still feel. 

It seemed so final when again I started a home, but there had been 
a gathering loneliness in my life — not seeing the children except on 
holidays, never having time to spend with old friends or to make new 
ones, and with such rich opportunities constantly offering themselves. 
I knew very well, however, what sort of a house I wanted — a simple 
one, something like Shelley's in Sussex. 

In 1923, with stones gathered from the fields we built a house near __ 
Fishkill, New York, cradled in the Dutchess County hills, beside a little 
lake. On it we tried out swans, but they did not work ; although they 
looked picturesque, they were too messy. So we changed to ducks and 
stocked the water with bass. I planned a blue garden which grew up 
and down and threw itself about the house and altered with the sea- 
sons. Pepper, a cocker spaniel puppy of two months, came the first 
year and bounced and leaped around us as we walked through the 
woods or rode horseback over the hills. 

Willow Lake was only sixty miles from New York. I could make out " 
the menus for a week ahead, leave directions for the gardening, be 
in my office fairly early and back again for dinner at night. Later, for 
working purposes, we built a studio among the treetops on the edge of 
a cliff from which I could look far off across the majestic valley of the 
Hudson. 

Domesticity, which I had once so scorned, had its charms after all. - 



Chapter Twenty-nine 



WHILE THE DOCTORS CONSULT 



/A FTER coming back from around the world I found nothing had 
jtxbeen done about the Tenth Street clinic, which I had expected to 
be in operation. No members of the Academy of Medicine had come 
forth to back Dr. de Vilbiss, and I had paid the rent for the last twelve 
months while vainly waiting. 

Now I gave it up and decided to start afresh. The more I had 
studied, the more clearly I had recognized that it was not possible to 
advise a standard contraceptive for all women any more than it was 
possible to prescribe one set of eyeglasses for all conditions of sight. 
Only upon examination and careful check-up could you determine the 
most suitable method. No detailed statistics had ever been kept except 
at Brownsville, and those case histories had never been returned to me 
by the police. I wanted to collect at least a thousand such records for a 
scientific survey before any opposition could interfere with the plan. 

Many women were still coming to me personally for information 
at 104 Fifth Avenue. The best thing to do was have a woman doctor 
right there to take care of them — a quiet way to begin. It was hard 
to locate one foot-loose and free; I could have no shying or run- 
ning off at the first indication of trouble. In making inquiries I heard 
of Dr. Dorothy Bocker, who held a New York City license though she 
was at present in the Public Health Service of Georgia. This single, 
cordial, and enthusiastic young woman knew practically nothing about 
birth control technique, but was willing to learn. The difficulty was that 
she wanted five thousand dollars a year. , 

358 



WHILE THE DOCTORS CONSULT 359 

At first this appeared an almost unsurmountable obstacle. Here was 
just the person I had been looking for, but it seemed beyond my power 
to raise so large a sum. I was loaded with the financial weight of the 
Review and the League. That organization had been admitted as a 
membership corporation and hence could not secure a license to con- 
duct a clinic, which in New York was synonymous with a dispensary. 
No clinic, therefore, could be included in its budget; it would remain 
a department of the League by courtesy only, being actually my private 
undertaking. Where could I find someone to donate such an enormous 
amount? 

Then I remembered Clinton Chance, a young manufacturer of 
Birmingham, who had prospered exceedingly both before and during 
the War. He and his wife, Janet, had become good friends of mine 
during my 1920 visit to England. Having felt the need of a more 
sound and fundamental outlet for his riches than that provided by 
charity, he had come to see that birth control information was far 
better for his employees than a dole at the birth of every new baby. He 
was not in any sense a professional philanthropist, but only wanted to 
help them be self-sufficient. 

Clinton had once offered me money to set the birth control move- 
ment going in England, but I had refused then because England 
had enough co-workers, who were handling the situation well, and, 
furthermore, my place was in the United States. He had then said 
to me, "I won't give you a contribution for regular current expenses, 
but if ever you see the necessity for some new project which will ad- 
vance the general good, call on me." ; 

Now I cabled Clinton at length, explaining my need. He promptly 
answered, "Yes, go ahead," and soon arrived an anonymous thousand 
pounds to cover Dr. Bocker's salary for the first year. I made out a 
contract for two. She was to come in January, 1923, and we were to 
shoulder the risks and responsibilities together. 

Even to choose a name for the venture was not easy. I had been 
steadily advertising the term "clinic" to America for so long that it 
had become familiar and, moreover, to poor people it meant that 
little or no payment was required. But the use of the word itself was 
legally impossible, and I was not certain that the same might not be 
true of "center" or "bureau." I wanted it at least to imply the things 



360 MARGARET SANGER 

that clinic meant as I had publicized it, and also to include the idea of 
research. 

Finally, one of the doors of the two rooms adjoining the League 
offices, readily accessible to me and to the women who came for advice, 
was lettered, Clinical Research. 

It was still a clinic in my mind, though frankly an experiment be- 
cause I was not even sure women would accept the methods we had 
to offer them. We started immediately keeping the records. Dr. Bocker 
wrote down the history of the case on a large card, numbering it to 
correspond with a smaller one containing the patient's name and ad- 
dress. Each applicant she suspected of a bad heart, tuberculosis, kidney 
trouble, or any ailment which made pregnancy dangerous, she in- 
formed regarding contraception and advised medical care at once. 

In our first annual report, which attracted much attention, all our 
cases were analyzed. We said, "Here is the proof — nine hundred 
women with definite statistics concerning their ages, physical and 
mental conditions, and economic status." 

As time went on I became less and less pleased with Dr. Bocker's 
system. She had no follow-up on patients, and I wished the clinic to be 
like a business in the thoroughness of its routine. I refused to approve 
methods as a hundred percent reliable until there had been not merely 
one but three checks on each woman who had been to the clinic. To 
begin with, she was to return two or three days after her initial visit ; 
she usually did that. .But if she did not come back inside three months, 
then a social worker in our own employ should be sent to call on her. 
Finally, she was to be examined once a year. Dr. Bocker did not see 
eye to eye with me that this was the only way to put the work on a 
sound scientific basis of facts, and we agreed to part company in De- 
cember of the second year. 

Dr. Hannah M. Stone, a fine young woman from the Lying-In 
Hospital, volunteered to take Dr. Bocker's place without salary. Her 
gaze was clear and straight, her hair was black, her mouth gentle and 
sweet. She had a sympathetic response to mothers in distress, and a 
broad attitude towards life's many problems. When the Lying-In 
Hospital later found she had connected herself with our clinic, it gave 
her a choice between remaining with us and resigning from the staff. 
She resigned. Her courageous stand indicated staunch friendship and 



WHILE THE DOCTORS CONSULT 361 

the disinterested selflessness essential for the successful operation of 
the clinic. These qualities have kept her with us all this time, one oi the 
most beloved and loyal workers that one could ever hope for. 

The clinic could serve New York, but its practical value outside was 
restricted, and I was always seeking some way of remedying this. We 
took the preliminary step in Illinois, where no laws existed against 
clinics. I had arranged a conference in Chicago at the Drake Hotel, 
October, 1923, the first of a regional series. Mrs. Benjamin Carpenter 
and Dr. Rachelle Yarros, who had been with Jane Addams at Hull 
House, had to obtain a court decision before Dr. Herman Bundesen, 
Commissioner of Health, would issue a license for the second clinic in 
the United States. 

Meanwhile, between 192 1 and 1926, 1 received over a million letters 
from mothers requesting information. From 1923 on a staff of three 
to seven was constantly busy just opening and answering them. Despite 
the limitations of the writers and their lack of education, they revealed 
themselves strangely conscious of the responsibilities of the maternal 
function. 

Childbearing is hazardous, even when carried out with the ad- 
vantages of modern hygiene and parental care. The upper middle 
classes are likely to assume all confinements are surrounded by the 
same attention given the births of their own babies. They do not 
comprehend it is still possible in these United States for a woman to 
milk six cows at five o'clock in the morning and bring a baby into the 
world at nine. The terrific hardships of the farm mother are not in the 
least degree lessened by maternity. If she and her infant survive, it is 
only to face these hardships anew, and with additional complications. 

In the midst of an era of science and fabulous wealth reaching out 
for enlightenment to advance our civilization, with millionaires tossing 
their fortunes into libraries and hospitals and laboratories to discover 
the secrets and causes of life, here at the doorstep of everyone was 
this tragic, scarcely recognized condition. 

It was an easy and even a pleasant task to reduce human problems to 
numerical figures in black and white on charts and graphs, but infi- 
nitely more difficult to suggest concrete solutions. The reasoning of 
learned theologians and indefatigable statisticians seemed academic 
and anemically intellectual if brought face to face with the actuality of 



2$2 MARGARET SANGER 

suffering. When they confronted me with arguments, this dim, far-off 
chorus of pain began to resound anew in my ears. 

Sensitive women of our clerical staff were constantly breaking down 
in health under the nervous depression caused by the fact we had so 
little knowledge to give. One who went to Chicago to help rehabilitate 
soldiers wrote me, "I'm feeling much better. These men who have lost 
a leg or arm come in, apparently disqualified forever, but something is 
being done about them, and it is happy work, not forlorn like yours." 

To prove that the story could be told by the mothers themselves, ten 
thousand letters, with the assistance of Mary Boyd, were selected and 
these again cut to five hundred. Eventually this historical record ap- 
peared in book form as Motherhood in Bondage. 

Whenever I am discouraged I go to those letters as to a wellspring 
which sends me on reheartened. They make me realize with increasing 
intensity that whoever kindles a spark of hope in the breast of another 
cannot shirk the duty of keeping it alive. 

[ Woman and the New Race, which sold at first for two dollars, had 
a distribution of two hundred and fifty thousand copies, and it made 
my heart ache to know that poor women who could ill afford it were 
buying the book and not finding there what they sought. To the best of 
my ability I tried to supply general information, but the only way of 
extending genuine aid was to persuade doctors to give it professionally.) 

By a happy chance I met Dr. James F. Cooper, tall, blond, distin- 
guished, a fine combination of missionary and physician, who left no 
stone unturned when a patient came to him, but devoted his whole at- 
tention to her — everything in her life was important to him. He was 
recently back from Fuchow, China, and was establishing himself in 
Boston as a gynecologist.-^ Since he was thoroughly convinced of the 
vital necessity for birth control and could talk technically to his pro- 
fession and interpret to the layman as well, my husband pledged his 
salary and expenses for two years, and I induced him to associate 
himself with us as medical director to go forth and try to convince the 
doctors throughout the country that contraceptive advice would save 
a large proportion of their women patients. 

In January, 1925, Dr. Cooper started on a tour which covered nearly 
all the states in the Union. In the course of the two years he delivered 
more than seven hundred lectures. Occasionally he was suspected of 



WHILE THE DOCTORS CONSULT 363 

ulterior motives, of attempting to advertise the products he recom- 
mended, but this did not sway him from his persistence. Where he 
found laxity on the part of medical organizations he spoke to lay asso- 
ciations, which applied pressure on their own physicians, demanding 
information. As a result of this trip, doctors really began to awake 
to the problem of contraception, and when it was ended we had the 
names of some twenty thousand from Maine to California who had 
consented to instruct patients referred to them. 

At this point began the huge and difficult process of decentraliza- 
tion, so that the New York office need no longer be a clearing house. 
Each request which lay outside the pale of the Cooper influence re- 
quired voluminous correspondence. One letter, enclosing a stamped, 
return-addressed envelope, was mailed to the woman, asking her to 
furnish us the name of her doctor. We then wrote him to inquire 
whether he would give her information, and offered to send supplies 
if she could not afford them. If he said yes, we notified her to that 
effect; if he said no, we gave some other doctor in her vicinity an 
opportunity to co-operate. 

We were immediately confronted with the situation that even will- 
ing doctors had little to recommend. Literally thousands of women re- 
ported that such ineffective methods had been tendered them they had 
refused to pay. We ourselves did not have a great deal, and this put 
us in a weak position; the acceptance of the theory was ahea4 of the 
means of practicing it. 

The jelly I had found in Friedrichshaven had turned out to be too 
expensive, because it was made with a chinosol and Irish moss base, 
and the price of the former was prohibitive in preparing it for poor 
women. Dr. Stone and Dr. Cooper, therefore, devised a formula for a 
jelly with a lactic acid and glycerine base, which was within our means. 
Most of their cases, however, were sufficiently grave for them not to 
feel justified in using it alone experimentally. Consequently, they took 
the precaution of having a double safeguard by combining the chemical 
contraceptive with the mechanical — jelly with pessary — which proved 
ninety-eight percent efficacious. 

At this time we could not import diaphragms directly. Although I 
had given various friends going to Germany and England the mission 
of bringing them in, this could not be done in sufficient quantity.;, 



364 MARGARET SANGER 

Furthermore, since bootlegging supplies could not continue indefi- 
nitely I had to find out how they could legally be made here. 

Two young men came to help in whatever way was most necessary. 
Herbert Simonds, who had been in advertising, began to investigate 
the possibility that some recognized rubber company should make our 
supplies. When one and all were fearful, he and Guy Moyston, who did 
some publicity for us, concluded they would form the Holland-Rantos 
Company, selling only to physicians or on prescription. They spent 
their own time and thousands of dollars personally on research, in the 
end perfecting a quality of rubber that could stand the variations of 
climate in the United States — hot houses and cold winters, Florida 
dampness and Western dryness. 

Meanwhile, Julius Schmid, an old established manufacturer, had 
been importing from his own concern in Germany a few diaphragms, 
but only on a modest scale because he did not want to run afoul of the 
Comstock law. As soon as he saw a potential market in the medical 
profession he fetched from the Fatherland several families who had 
been making molds there, gave them places to live in, and set up a little 
center, expanding gradually until eventually he sold more contracep- 
tive supplies than any firm in the world. 

But this was all in the future. 

Soon after we had developed an organization in which econo- 
mists, biologists, and other scientists could be articulate, they came 
into the movement. Dr. S. Adolphus Knopf, a tuberculosis specialist, 
who had been one of the first to greet me when I came out of jail, never 
missed an opportunity to contribute articles to medical journals and to 
write letters. Professor Edward Alsworth Ross's books continued to 
popularize the sociological and economic aspects. Professor E. M. 
East of the Bussy Institute of Harvard University published a study 
of population titled Mankind at the Crossroads, which obtained wide 
circulation. His one-time pupil, Dr. Raymond Pearl of Johns Hopkins, 
was carrying on the same work showing exactly how much food a cer- 
tain number of acres could produce at what cost. Universities generally 
began to show an interest; students wrote asking for scientific and 
historical data upon which to base their theses. 

Young people in colleges, partly because their ideas were not yet 



WHILE THE DOCTORS CONSULT 365 

biased, offered a fallow field for my personal campaign of education 
through lecturing. I particularly enjoyed their quickness and alertness 
and their interludes of comic relief. Nowhere has this combination 
been more apparent than in a recent visit to Colgate University. Four 
boys met me at the station and somehow or other we all squeezed into 
an automobile which shortly deposited me at the home of one of the 
professors for tea and to meet the faculty. "This is house-party night," 
he told me. "The girls are here, and most of the boys won't get to bed 
until daylight. We'll have to rout them out to hear you at chapel to- 
morrow." He added that during his twelve years in the University no 
woman had spoken on that platform. 

"Have they prejudices against women speakers ?" 

"Oh, no, no. There's just no subject a woman can deal with better 
than a man." 

Well ! I thought, if the boys will all have been out to parties and 
I'm the first woman speaker, here is a challenge ! No sociology or dull 
population figures for them from me. 

The next morning, determined to make them take notice, I ran- 
sacked my bag for my smartest dress, adjusted my lipstick, and care- 
fully set my hat at an angle. Nevertheless, I was a bit ill at ease. My 
anxiety was not allayed when Norman Himes, professor of sociology, 
said, "Now, Mrs. Sanger, we probably shan't be able to hear you in 
this hall. The acoustics are very bad. They can hardly hear me and I 
have a big voice." 

This was even less encouraging. I felt I was likely to be the last as 
well as the first woman at Colgate. However, I replied bravely, "I 
can speak up and we can have some wave if they can't hear me. Any- 
how, there probably won't be many; why can't they be moved up 
front?" 

"Yes, that's what we'd better do." 

We went in to find the chapel jammed. Some of the students were 
standing in the door, others against the walls. 

Professor Himes introduced me at the top of his lungs. "Louder ! 
Louder !" The boys waved their hands. The more he tried to make him- 
self heard, the more restless they became. When I stood, however, they 
had to listen if they were to hear me. There was no waving, no calling. 



366 MARGARET SANGER 

They roared with laughter and clapped at everything I said. This 
seemed fine, but I suspected that I could not have really made so pro- 
found an impression as to deserve so much applause. 

Someone afterwards commented to Professor Himes, "We've 
never seen the boys so appreciative." 

"Oh," he remarked, "they thought if they could keep Mrs. Sanger 
talking long enough they wouldn't have to go to their examinations." 

From the time I started lecturing in 19 16 I have appeared in many 
places — halls, churches, women's clubs, homes, theaters. I have had 
many types of audiences — cotton workers, churchmen, liberals, Social- 
ists, scientists, clubmen, and fashionable, philanthropically minded 
women. 

Once in Detroit Mrs. William McGraw, Sr. had organized a public 
meeting and luncheon at the Statler Hotel. When I arrived I encoun- 
tered a situation which might well have embarrassed a less doughty 
hostess. She had invited a dozen of the most prominent women in the 
city to sit at the speaker's table. Mrs. A. had asked, "Will Mrs. B. sit 
there also?" Mrs. B. had inquired, "Will Mrs. C. be next to me?" 
Each wanted social support. Mrs. McGraw had blandly refused to 
tell them ; consequently not one had accepted. Although five hundred 
came, only two places were set at the great banquet table on the plat- 
form. Mrs. McGraw and I ate in solitary splendor with nothing but 
the floral decorations for company. 

All the world over, in Penang and Skagway, in El Paso and Hel- 
singfors, I have found women's psychology in the matter of child- 
bearing essentially the same, no matter what the class, religion, or 
economic status. Always to me any aroused group was a good group, 
and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women's branch 
of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey, one of the weirdest 
experiences I had in lecturing. 

My letter of instruction told me what train to take, to walk from 
the station two blocks straight ahead, then two to the left. I would see 
a sedan parked in front of a restaurant. If I wished I could have ten 
minutes for a cup of coffee or bite to eat, because no supper would be 
served later. 

I obeyed orders implicitly, walked the blocks, saw the car, found 
the restaurant, went in and ordered some cocoa, stayed my allotted ten 



WHILE THE DOCTORS CONSULT 367 

minutes, then approached the car hesitatingly and spoke to the driver. 
I received no reply. She might have been totally deaf as far as I was 
concerned. Mustering up my courage, I climbed in and settled back. 
Without a turn of the head, a smile, or a word to let me know I was 
right, she stepped on the self-starter. For fifteen minutes we wound 
around the streets. It must have been towards six in the afternoon. 
We took this lonely lane and that through the woods, and an hour 
later pulled up in a vacant space near a body of water beside a large, 
unpainted, barnish building. 

My driver got out, talked with several other women, then said to me 
severely, "Wait here. We will come for you." She disappeared. More 
cars buzzed up the dusty road into the parking place. Occasionally men 
dropped wives who walked hurriedly and silently within. This went 
on mystically until night closed down and I was alone in the dark. A 
few gleams came through chinks in the window curtains. Even though 
it was May, I grew chillier and chillier. 

After three hours I was summoned at last and entered a bright 
corridor filled with wraps. As someone came out of the hall I saw 
through the door dim figures parading with banners and illuminated 
crosses. I waited another twenty minutes. It was warmer and I did 
not mind so much. Eventually the lights were switched on, the audi- 
ence seated itself, and I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, 
and began to speak. 

Never before had I looked into a sea of faces like these. I was sure 
that if I uttered one word, such as abortion, outside the usual vocabu- 
lary of these women they would go off into hysteria. And so my ad- 
dress that night had to be in the most elementary terms, as though 
I were trying to make children understand. 

In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accom- 
plished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups 
were proffered. The conversation went on and on, and when we were 
finally through it was too late to return to New York. Under a curfew 
law everything in Silver Lake shut at nine o'clock. I could not even 
send a telegram to let my family know whether I had been thrown in 
the river or was being held incommunicado. It was nearly one before I 
reached Trenton, and I spent the night in a hotel. 

In Brattleboro, Vermont, my audience was made up of another slice 



368 MARGARET SANGER 

of America — honest, strong, capable housewives who made their pies 
and doughnuts and preserves before they came. When I had finished 
there was not a murmur of commendation from the three hundred. 
The minister of the church where the meeting was held had asked me 
to stand beside him to say how-do-you-do when they came out. They 
just went by, eyes straight ahead. 

On the telephone afterwards, however, each was asking what the 
other thought. The cases I had cited were typical of their own com- 
munity. "Was she referring to this one or that one?" they queried. 

I returned two days later to lunch with a doctor and four or five 
social workers, and was surprised to hear, "The women want to start 
a clinic." 

"But there wasn't any enthusiasm when I suggested it the other 
morning." 

"The people around here don't express much openly. They were 
moved to quietness. But just the same they're starting a clinic in 
Brattleboro." 



Chapter Thirty 



NOW IS THE TIME FOR CONVERSE 



SIDE by side with the clinic and education another project had been 
stirring for some time in my mind. Internationalism was in the 
air, and I wanted that outlook brought into the movement in the 
United States. To this end I made plans for the Sixth International 
Malthusian and Birth Control Conference, to be held in New York in 
March, 1925. 

In the summer of 1924 I called a Conference Committee meeting 
of the League. That is, in addition to the regular Board members, 
other supporters were invited to attend. As soon as the matter was 
brought up they expostulated, "You still have to ask for money to run 
the Review. How can you pay the fares of the delegates and furnish 
them with hospitality ? Do you know how much it will cost ?" 

Since I wished to have the Conference important enough to make its 
mark I replied promptly, "Not less than twenty-five thousand dollars." 

"Have you thought of how you are going to finance it?" 

"Certainly I have." I was certain that the interest of many of our 
contributors extended beyond the magazine, and that they would see 
we now had a broader field of activity. They had given before and 
would give again. I knew money would come in. 

Any five of the outside women present could have underwritten the 
Conference, but they objected that funds were needed for other 
work. One by one they left in a hurry; the inevitable appointments 
were waiting for them. Their advice to the Board was, no Conference 
— and the wealthy members of the Board concurred. 

369 



370 MARGARET SANGER 

Nevertheless, I went ahead with the details of securing backers. 
Even the letterhead on our stationery was significant. You could tell 
such a lot about an organization — quality, standards, tone — from the 
names, often more informative than the body of the letter. My inten- 
tion was to make people stand in public for what they believed in 
private, and at least our list of sponsors was impressive enough — a 
brilliant and distinguished array. 

The success of any conference was determined in great measure by 
the caliber of the men who took part in it. Results depended first upon 
the concept animating it, and second, as had been proved before, on the 
presence of an eminent figure to ornament the assemblage. I decided 
to see whether I could induce Lord Dawson to be our main speaker, 
and, hoping that personal persuasion might be more efficacious than 
written, sailed for England in September. 

Havelock came up from Margate to greet me, as usual far removed 
from the hurly-burly of the world, aloof from the conflict of ideas 
which meant so much to me. Yet to talk with him again was to re- 
turn to the melee with renewed inspiration. I managed to crowd in a 
motor trip to Oxford, lunch at the Mitre, a walk through Brazenose 
and King's, and a drive back through Buckinghamshire, where the 
beeches were changing to bronze and russet. I felt a regretful pang that 
so little of my life could be lived in England. 

Unfortunately for my purposes Lord Dawson was away shooting in 
the North. With some temerity I dwelt upon the possibility of Lord 
Buckmaster, the former Stanley Owen, Chancellor of the Exchequer 
in the Asquith Coalition of 191 5, who had become one of the most 
finished orators in the House of Lords. He had just returned from 
Scotland and telephoned me to suggest we exchange views. He was 
about to present a resolution that, under the auspices of the Ministry 
of Health, restrictions on birth control instruction be removed for 
married women who attended welfare centers. He was gathering 
practical information from people who had had practical experience, 
and wanted to know how methods in the United States differed from 
those in England and, particularly, verification of their harmlessness. 

When he came to my hotel one afternoon, I did not take time to 
mention the Conference, because H.G., knowing the value of proper 
introductions, had arranged one of his most brilliant dinners for that 



NOW IS THE TIME FOR CONVERSE 37 1 

very evening, or rather he had proposed it and Jane had arranged it. 
For H.G. to entertain in behalf of a cause set the seal of approval on 
it. Jane had invited literary luminaries and their wives : George 
Bernard Shaw, Arnold Bennett, Sir Arbuthnot Lane, Professor E. W. 
MacBride of the Eugenics Education Society, Walter Salter of the 
League of Nations, and Lord Buckmaster. 

It had been my experience that personages gave little of themselves 
on formal occasions. So many people expected these lions to roar 
bravely, forgetting that they preferred- to save their sparkling sal- 
lies for the pages of their books. Moreover, when the English came 
together for an evening they liked to have it light and amusing. I had 
received much from the books of Shaw, who had advanced civilization 
by breaking down barriers of all sorts, now almost nothing from him 
personally, although he was very diverting, with funny quips upon 
life and America and birth control. 

I had by design been seated next to Lord Buckmaster, and after the 
meal had been in progress for perhaps half an hour, H.G. leaned over 
and whispered to me, "Have you got him ?" 

"I haven't started yet." 

"You're no true American. You ought to work faster. You're 
missing out." Whereupon he focused his own attention on Lord Buck- 
master, who, in answer to his direct query, regretted that the date 
conflicted with the opening of Parliament. 

Before I could realize it the time came when I was due to sail 
from Southampton. Lord Dawson had just returned and could see 
me at three that afternoon. Promptly on the hour his secretary ushered 
me into his library at Wimpole Street. A fire was burning cheerfully in 
the grate, a gentleman, traditionally tall and handsome, was sitting 
leisurely on the sofa as though my boat train did not leave Waterloo 
Station at four-thirty, and endless days remained in which to talk 
about the interesting subject of birth control. He was a grand seigneur 
such as you rarely encountered in your travels, having a mind that 
could understand and meet any discussion with knowledge, facts, and 
comprehension. The approach, the surroundings, his courtesy, charm 
of manner, and poise, proved him a great English aristocrat. He asked 
me about the attitude of the medical profession in the United States, 
desirous of knowing who had identified themselves with it. I recited 



372 MARGARET SANGER 

my past efforts to enlist the support of the leading physicians. The 
minutes sped relentlessly away ; I had to leave, and barely caught my 
train. Having admired him so long from afar, I was glad to have had 
this brief contact, even though he was unable to attend the Confer- 
ence. 

I was back in New York by the end of October, and soon came a 
letter from Shaw cheering me with his point of view : 

Birth control should be advocated for its own sake, on the general 
ground that the difference between voluntary, irrational, uncontrolled 
activity is the difference between an amoeba and a man; and if we 
really believe that the more highly evolved creature is the better we 
may as well act accordingly. As the amoeba does not understand birth 
control, it cannot abuse it, and therefore its state may be the more 
gracious ; but it is also true that as the amoeba cannot write, it can- 
not commit forgery : yet we teach everybody to write unhesitatingly, 
knowing that if we refuse to teach anything that could be abused we 
should never teach anything at all. 

Interminable correspondence began immediately with adherents and, 
in many distant lands, possible delegates. I sent out telegrams to the 
former and as fast as money arrived dispatched it to the latter for their 
passage over, though I did not yet have enough to get them home again. 
Languages and interpreters then had to be arranged for ; in Europe 
that was difficult enough, but here it was more than perplexing. Worst 
of all was the eternal barrier of our laws. Topics that could be freely 
discussed in London were forbidden in the United States, and we 
could not afford to have the dignity of the occasion marred by another 
Town Hall episode. I had to tell delegates what their papers were to be 
about, and, when it was necessary to cut out a reference to contracep- 
tives, had to apologize and explain why. 

I quickly found that visitors from seventeen countries could pro- 
duce more problems than statistics and theories proved. The committee 
sent to meet Dr. G. O. Lapouge, a French eugenist, after vainly 
searching through the cabins on the boat, went back to the pier whence 
all had fled save one inconspicuous, desolate man sitting on top of his 
luggage, reading, waiting patiently for someone to come for him — 
so unimportant-looking that no one would have suspected him of being 
a renowned scientist. The next morning the Hotel McAlpin, where the 



NOW IS THE TIME FOR CONVERSE 373 

convention was to be held, called me up to report that Dr. Lapouge had 
been severely burned, and an interpreter was needed. Dr. Drysdale 
hurried off to find the poor little man of seventy in excruciating pain 
but carrying on a dissertation, highly amusing, about the hazards of 
America's much-advertised plumbing. Without understanding how 
to regulaie the shower he had stood under it and turned on the hot 
water. The skin fairly peeled off his chest. Nevertheless, bandaged 
and oiled, he undauntedly attended all the sessions. 

The opening night we had a "pioneers' dinner" over which Hey- 
wood Broun presided. The Danish Fru Thit Jensen, blond, vi- 
vacious, was to relate the troubles she had had in arousing interest in 
her own country. She made her address in English courageously 
enough, but it was evident at once that someone slightly familiar with 
American slang had helped her out. She was describing a doctors' 
meeting in Denmark and the first words we heard were, "When I gave 
my greetings to those boneheads as I am to you — " We all burst into 
laughter because they seemed to apply to the guests present. Her face 
remained sphinx-like in its determined immobility; she halted for us 
to subside, then continued. Almost immediately the dignified gathering 
went off again into a fresh peal. You no sooner recovered from one 
shrieking convulsion than she made another remark equally ludicrous. 
After each outbreak she paused resignedly before going on with her 
carefully prepared speech. The hilarity finally got out of hand, so 
whether the end was funny or not nobody knew or cared. 

At every meeting Dr. Ferdinand Goldstein of Berlin, who was hard 
of hearing, sat in the front row. The mention of any phase of popula- 
tion, on which he was an expert, brought him promptly to his feet. 
Standing directly in front of the speaker, he cupped his ear in order 
not to miss a single word. The one discordant note occurred on the 
last day when the committee declined to embody in its program any 
endorsement of abortion. He not only left the Conference but went 
back to Germany without saying good-by to anyone. 

The Austrian delegates were Johann Ferch and his wife, Betty. This 
Viennese printer had become interested in birth control through setting 
up material on his linotype. He had informed himself of methods and 
in a short time had several clinics started in Vienna. One morn- 
ing when I found them at breakfast in the dining room, great tears 



374 MARGARET SANGER 

were rolling down Mrs. Ferch's face. I asked her what the trouble was 
and she said she was weeping because the pot of coffee on the table, a 
simple bit of food, cost thirty-five cents, and she realized what this 
amount of money would buy at home ; for the price of one meal in 
New York their starving relatives could live for a whole day in luxury. 
Neither of them felt entitled to indulge in such extravagance. 

Dr. Aletta Jacobs walked along with me after one of the sessions. 
She said the fact she had refused to see me in 191 5 had been on her 
mind ever since, and she desired to clear up the matter now ; she had 
always been against lay people taking part in the movement, and for 
that reason had opposed the Rutgers method of training practical 
nurses and allowing them to go out in the field after only two months' 
instruction. She had put me in the same category as those in her own 
country who had wanted to establish clinics as a commercial venture. 
That afternoon she visited our clinic and went over methods with Dr. 
Cooper and Dr. Stone. Here, she said, with kindling eyes, was the 
system she had envisioned in the Netherlands but had never been able 
to make come true. 

The eugenists were given their opportunity to speak at the Con- 
ference. Eugenics, which had started long before my time, had once 
been defined as including free love and prevention of conception. 
Moses Harman of Chicago, one of its chief early adherents, had run a 
magazine and gone to jail for it under the Comstock regime. Recently 
it had cropped up again in the form of selective breeding, and biolo- 
gists and geneticists such as Clarence C. Little, President of the Uni- 
versity of Maine, and C. B. Davenport, Director of the Cold Spring 
Harbor Station for Experimental Evolution, had popularized their 
findings under this heading. Protoplasm was the substance then sup- 
posed to carry on hereditary traits — genes and chromosomes were a 
later discovery. Professor Davenport used to lift his eyes reverently 
and, with his hands upraised as though in supplication, quiver emo- 
tionally as he breathed, "Protoplasm. We want more protoplasm." 

I accepted one branch of this philosophy, but eugenics without birth 
control seemed to me a house built upon sands. It could not stand 
against the furious winds of economic pressure which had buffeted 
into partial or total helplessness a tremendous proportion of the human 
race. The eugenists wanted to shift the birth control emphasis from 



NOW IS THE TIME FOR CONVERSE 375 

less children for the poor to more children for the rich. We went back 
of that and sought first to stop the multiplication of the unfit. This 
appeared the most important and greatest step towards race better- 
ment. 

A special^ round table for the eugenists was held at which we took 
the opportunity to challenge their theories. I said, "Dr. Little, let's 
begin with you. How many children have you?" 

"Three." 

"How many more are you going to have ?" 

"None. I can't afford them." 

"Professor East, how many have you, and how many more are you 
going to have ?" 

And sp the question circled. Not one planned to have another child, 
though Dr. Little has had two since by a second wife. "There you are," 
I said, "a super-intelligent group, the very type for whom you advocate 
more children, yet you yourselves won't practice what you preach. If 
I were to put this same question to a group of poor women who already 
have families, every one of them would also answer, 'No, I don't want 
any more.' No arguments can make people want children if they think 
they have enough." 

When the Conference was over, a final meeting was held at my 
apartment to form a permanent international association of which Dr. 
Little was made president. 

Handling everything had been something of an undertaking, but 
after all the delegates had been sent off we still had money in the bank. 
My faith had been justified that, if you started something worth while, 
means for its realization would be forthcoming. 



Chapter Thirty-one 



GREAT HEIGHTS ARE HAZARDOUS 



"Professor East, though you may try, 
You fail to rouse my fears, 
For I don't dream that even I 
Will live a hundred years; 
But do not think I view with mirth 
Five billion folk (assorted) 
Five billion tightly packed on earth 
Who cannot be supported." 

(South African Review) 



AT the conclusion of the New York Conference I thought that I 
jf\.was never going to have anything to do with organizing another. 
But hardly more than a few months had gone by before my mind was 
dwelling on one to be centered around overpopulation as a cause of 
war. From the statements of Keynes and the specialists of the League 
of Nations, and from the status of the countries of Europe, it was 
inferred that international peace could in no way be made secure until 
measures had been put into effect to deal with explosive populations. 

Between 1800 and 1900 the inhabitants of the world doubled in spite 
of bloody wars, thus proving they were only temporary checks. For 
every hundred thousand babies who died between dawn and dawn, 
Professor East estimated that one hundred and fifty thousand were 
born. These fifty thousand survivors contributed to the globe in twenty 
years a horde almost equal to India's three hundred and seventy-five 
million. 

In the United States, numerically speaking, overpopulation was not 
of apparent importance ; we still had unoccupied lands. But evidence 
that we were beginning to consider the quality of our citizens as well 
as the quantity was shown in our immigration laws. In 1907 we had 

376 



GREAT HEIGHTS ARE HAZARDOUS 377 

barred aliens with mental, physical, communicable, or loathsome dis- 
eases, and also illiterate paupers, prostitutes, criminals, and the feeble- 
minded. Had these precautions been taken earlier our institutions 
would not now be crowded with moronic mothers, daughters, and 
grand-daughters — three generations at a time, all of whom have to be 
supported by tax-payers who shut their eyes to this condition, ad- 
mittedly detrimental to the blood stream of the race. 

Then our sudden closing of the doors in 1924 by placing the world 
on a quota, threw Europe's surplus population back on herself. Italy 
had to face this problem as Germany had had to do in 19 14. At the 
Institute of Politics in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in the summer of 
1925, Count Antonio Cippico, Fascist Senator, virtually demanded 
that, to make room for her "explosive expansion," Italy be allowed to 
export her half-million annual increase to foreign lands. Professor 
East answered him, asking Italy first to put her house in order, and 
setting forth with clarity the inexorable results of "spawning children 
on the world with haphazard recklessness." But she had no intention 
of doing so. Shortly afterwards Mussolini outlined his plan: "If Italy 
is to amount to anything it must enter into the second half of this 
century with at least sixty million." 

Japan and Germany as well as Italy were already called danger spots 
in 1925. Japan's goal was a hundred million. Goring was soon to say, 
"The territory in which the Germans live is too small for our sixty-six 
million inhabitants and will be too small for the ninety million which 
we want to become." The three military countries were pleading with 
their women to bear more children, offering as inducements medals, 
money, lands. They claimed the right of expansion because they were 
too crowded at home, and were at the same time increasing their 
peoples in order to promote successful wars. 

Populations can fall into a semi-starved state of inertia, such as that 
of India or China, unless they are aggressive. They have a choice of 
three courses : to lower the standards of living to the bare subsistence 
level, to control the birth rate, or to reach out for colonies as Great 
Britain has done. 

While we had been holding our conference in London in 1922 I had 
met at one of Major Putnam's luncheons the Very Reverend "gloomy" 
Dean Inge, except that he was not gloomy at all ; he was full of mis- 



378 MARGARET SANGER 

chief. In his late fifties, tall, thin as an exclamation point, quite deaf, he 
reminded me of a Dickens character. He had commented in his usual 
pungent style on the real meaning of the right to expand : 

It is a pleasant prospect if every nation with a high birth rate has 
a "right" to exterminate its neighbors. The supposed duty of multi- 
plication, and the alleged right to expand, are among the chief causes 
of modern war; and I repeat that if they justify war, it must be a 
war of extermination, since mere conquest does nothing to solve the 
problem. 

I was still of the opinion in 1925 that the League of Nations should 
include birth control in its program and proclaim that increase in 
numbers was not to be regarded as a justifiable reason for national 
expansion, but that each nation should limit its inhabitants to its re- 
sources as a fundamental principle of international peace. 

On the other hand, it was all very well to say, "Cut down your num- 
bers," but how could this be done if scientific and medical development 
lagged so far behind that few knew how to do it ? Building up huge 
populations by following the way of nature was fairly simple, but it 
was by no means simple to reduce them again voluntarily. No long- 
range program was possible until economists, sociologists, and biolo- 
gists alike should garner and contribute facts to the solution. There- 
fore the occasion was now ripe for the attention of the scientific world 
to be focused on the population question. I planned to bring them 
together at Geneva, the logical meeting place. 

Dr. Little, who had accepted the presidency for the next interna- 
tional birth control conference, had gone to the University of Michi- 
gan as its President. He had no time for organizing, raising money, 
getting speakers; if this lengthy job of organizing the World Popu- 
lation Conference were to be done I should have to do it. 

So great was the competition between the League of Nations and 
other groups desiring to hold conventions at Geneva during its sessions 
that you had to book an auditorium and rooms for delegates practically 
twelve months ahead. Consequently, towards the end of 1926 I went 
to Geneva to make arrangements for an expected three hundred guests. 
I had previously become acquainted with several Genevese. William 
Rappard, then a professor at the university there, consented to go 



GREAT HEIGHTS ARE HAZARDOUS 379 

on our committee and advise me on social details with which only a 
native would be familiar. 

More vital to me was the Labor Office of the League, where it was 
not a matter of politics but of industrial problems thrashed out by peo- 
ple chosen for their special knowledge. Here I met Albert Thomas, a 
strange-looking person, short, stocky, with black beard sprouting over 
his face, very talkative, amazing in his energy, traveling over Europe 
by night, arriving in Geneva in the morning, conducting his business 
affairs, making speeches. But with all this activity he managed to 
spare hours enough to help me immeasurably when I consulted him 
on subjects, persons, locations, and dates. 

The Salle Centrale was engaged for three days, August 30th to 
September 2nd of the next year, 1927. Back I went to London to enlist 
an English committee. Clinton Chance became my husband's assistant 
in supervising finances, and also provided London headquarters in his 
offices, supplying stenographers and secretaries. Edith How-Martyn 
joined us and I secured the invaluable aid of Julian Huxley, brother 
of Aldous, a brilliant, young, enthusiastic scientist, alive and having a 
mind that not only took things in, but gave them out. The Conference 
owed much to his fair and just opinions and the fine supporters he 
rounded up. Together we went over names and names and names, 
trying to choose a chairman of sufficient distinction around whom 
European scientists would rally. Professor A. M. Carr-Saunders at 
first accepted, but a month and a half later informed me his other obli- 
gations were so heavy he would have to limit his participation to mem- 
bership on the Council. 

After weeks of uncertainty, interviews, and rejections, we selected 
Sir Bernard Mallet, K.C.B., once of the Foreign Office, Treasury, 
Board of Inland Revenue, later Registrar General of Births, Deaths, 
and Marriages, and President of the Royal Statistical Society. Al- 
though very English, he was not too conservative. He knew well Sir 
Eric Drummond, then head of the League of Nations, and also had 
many friends on the Continent, particularly in Italy. He was typical of 
an individual who had climbed far, who knew where he was going and 
the road by which he should travel. Bored at being now in retirement, 
he accepted our offer willingly because, although no salary was at- 
tached, it would give him a position and an interest, and keep him 



380 MARGARET SANGER 

socially in touch with noteworthy figures. Lady Mallet's previous ex- 
perience as lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria made her an expert 
hostess, and this too we needed. 

Once I had to make an expedition all the way to Edinburgh to seek 
out Dr. F. A. E. Crew, a shining light among the younger biologists, 
who was making hens crow and roosters lay eggs. He readily agreed 
to come to the Conference and during the two days I visited him 
helped me build up my program. 

I also wanted a paper read by Andre Siegfried, author of America 
Comes of Age, written after journeying some six weeks through the 
United States. When he invited me to tea at his home in Paris, I found 
him in appearance more like a mixture of American and English than 
French. But you could feel from his attitude and deduce from his 
conversation that he really envied, despised, hated Americans ; by in- 
vading France with our "wealth and vulgarity," we had utterly spoiled 
it for his compatriots. Appreciating good food, which we never had at 
home, we squandered enormously, four or five times what they did. 
The same was true of wine ; we were drinking their best, paying high 
for it without being able to tell the difference when we were given 
cheap vintages. Consequently, the Parisians were being shut out of 
Paris because they could not afford the prices. 

"I don't see how you can blame the Americans for coming over and 
paying what you French ask," I replied. "You might have a complaint 
perhaps if we tried to undersell you or refused to buy. But it seems to 
me you are profiting considerably by this 'outrageous intrusion of the 
American dollar.' " 

Although we did not get on very well and although he would not 
read a paper, he consented to attend. 

Some of the preliminaries having been set, my husband took a villa 
at Cap d'Ail between Nice and Monte Carlo and near enough to 
Geneva, Paris, and London for trips whenever necessary. From my 
room the sunrise was incredibly vivid — reds and yellows mixed with 
the glorious blue of the Mediterranean. But it was not warm. H.G., 
who had a villa at Grasse, said the Riviera reputation for summer heat 
in wintertide was a fraud. We used to drive up to see him ; the flowers 
for the perfume manufactories grew thick on the hillsides, so thick that 
the air for miles around was fragrant. Occasionally we picnicked in 



GREAT HEIGHTS ARE HAZARDOUS 381 

the tiny village on top of the mountain of Ez, a favorite haunt of 
artists. Once the old castle had belonged to robber barons, who could 
see for miles the approach of a ship ; now the elder Mrs. O. P. Belmont 
had a palatial residence there. 

The Riviera was always a Mecca for English people wanting to 
escape their own cold and fog and damp, and our eight guest rooms 
were full most of the time. It was quite novel for me to manage a house- 
hold in French. We had the traditional bad luck of Americans; the 
maids stole from the guests and the hot water boiler only held ten 
gallons — not a person could have a good bath until a modern one was 
installed. My first cook was an expert in her field, but I soon found she 
was running over in her bills, even allowing for the customary per- 
quisite of a sou for each franc she spent with the butcher and the green- 
grocer. Eggs and butter were on the list every day, but never how many 
eggs nor how much butter. I laid the responsibility on my own bad 
French, before I discovered it was her understanding of Americans. 
Then and there I told her she had to leave the following day immedi- 
ately after breakfast. She received this ultimatum with tears and wail- 
ing. Somewhat uneasy I rose early at seven only to find she had gone 
late the preceding night, taking with her every scrap of food in the 
pantry and storeroom except the salt. 

On one of my frequent flirtings to London I went to a hairdressers' 
shop, unfamiliar to me but carrying the insignia of reliability, "By 
Appointment to Her Majesty." I was to return to Cap d'Ail in a few 
days and wished to appear with a wave in my hair, which I wore Mid- 
Victorian, very sweet and simple. After washing it, the coiffeur put an 
iron on a little gas arrangement in the window near by and left the 
room while it was drying, floating out in the wind. 

Meanwhile I meditated on the subject of hair. The story of Samson 
seemed to have been more than an allegorical tale. I could tell from the 
way mine acted on being brushed in the morning how I myself was 
going to be. If it were strong and electric, then I was full of vitality. 
When slumped over my forehead so that it had to be tied down, then I 
dragged about spiritlessly. 

It was also interesting to analyze why a woman should wear her 
hair in a certain style. I knew some who, at the age of sixty, curled 
theirs in baby ringlets ; doubtless something within them wanted never 



382 MARGARET SANGER 

to grow up. Women who had gone into the underground movement in 
Russia took the shears to theirs so that nothing should divert the at- 
tention to feminine appeal. I was not enough of a Feminist to sacrifice 
mine, but I had once come to the conclusion that the triumph of life 
would be to push it straight back from my forehead and tie it in a 
knot behind, because that was how people thought I looked. But I could 
not do it. No matter what was said about your feet or your figure, you 
could at least show your hair — in front of hats, down your back, every- 
where, and so I had clung tenaciously to my long locks. 

At this point in my musings I smelled something burning and turned 
around to find half my hair singed off to my ear. I gave one shriek, and 
the whole staff rushed in. But it was too late ; it all had to be cut short 
and I actually wept. 

As soon as I reached Paris I had what was left done up like a 
switch so that I could put it on if I felt too badly. I kept it in a box, all 
ready in case my husband did not want me without my hair. Eventually 
I had to face his disapproval. I appeared for dinner. Nothing was said. 
Although internally amused the guests maintained grave faces, wait- 
ing for him to notice it ; not until next morning did he do so. My own 
attitude had changed overnight; never did I want to return to long 
hair. 

During early spring, just when it was beginning to be most beauti- 
ful, I could spend little time at Cap d'Ail. Permanent headquarters 
were established in April at Geneva — four airy, spacious rooms up two 
flights. I had expected Edith How-Martyn to be with me, but she came 
down with scarlet fever in London. It was a complication to do without 
her until Mrs. Marjorie Martin, who had organized a pool of stenog- 
raphers, secretaries, and typists at the Labor Bureau, furnished us 
with a most competent and experienced office staff of seventeen. 

At four-thirty our large reception room was transformed into a 
living room where all the employees and volunteers gathered. Each in 
turn provided cakes, brewed the tea, and washed up afterwards. One 
evening at a quarter to seven some good American stopped in and, see- 
ing everybody smiling and cheerful though still at work, asked, "Will 
you tell me what magic you women use to create this atmosphere? 
You've been at it since seven this morning." 

The answer was — tea at four-thirty. 



GREAT HEIGHTS ARE HAZARDOUS 383 

I liked being in Geneva, neat and clean and filled with watch shops. 
I did not even mind the great numbers of people in solemn, black 
clothes. If anyone died in this Calvinist city, the family wore full 
mourning for one year, and half for the following — in large families 
the process became almost perpetual. 

I was not stimulated by the League sittings. There was much read- 
ing of papers and a lot of noise, but no breathless excitement during the 
debates. Instead, the members talked in small groups, looking very 
bored. The big things, just as in Washington, were done behind the 
scenes, at dinner tables, and in private conferences. The general meet- 
ings were merely sounding boards for public opinion. One of the most 
interesting features was the way a delegate could make a speech in 
his own language and others at their desks could plug in earphones and 
hear it simultaneously in theirs, coming from booths off stage. 

Delegates to our Conference were all asking whether their papers 
were to be given in their respective tongues. I came to one swift deci- 
sion — to adopt the bilingual League precedent of French and English. 
It was simple enough to secure interpreters who were familiar with 
political terminology, because they swarmed at Geneva, but to find 
those who understood scientific terms in German, Italian, Hungarian, 
Scandinavian, Portuguese, Greek, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese was 
quite another affair. We tried to catch as many as we could passing 
through Geneva and hold them over during the time we needed their 
services. 

In order to facilitate matters my husband generously financed the 
morning journal to be delivered on the breakfast tray of every person 
registered at the Conference, and also to members of the League of 
Nations. It was printed in English and French in parallel columns, con- 
taining the papers, the discussions, and any news items that might con- 
cern the delegates. 

Entertainment was an important feature. A series of luncheons was 
to be held at the Restaurant Besson, with a host at each table, and daily 
the seating was to be rearranged so that each guest might be placed 
between those who spoke his own language or languages. M. Rappard 
was to give a reception. M. Fatio invited us on board the Montreux 
to visit Mme. de StaeTs former home at Coppet. The chief social event 
was the reception and dinner at Mrs. Stanley McCormick's Fifteenth 



384 MARGARET SANGER 

Century Chateau de Prangins at Nyon. She herself could not be there, 
but sent a representative from America to open it, equip it with serv- 
ants, and make everything ready. 

Adequate handling of publicity was essential, and Albin Johnson, 
correspondent of the New York World, did this for me. He knew who 
was who, whom to avoid, and what persons would put the proper 
emphasis on what. He volunteered his services, but some of his assist- 
ants had to be paid. 

We offered expenses to all speakers and certain visitors who might 
later be influential in their own communities. The outpouring of money 
was constant and I was not getting enough by soliciting from wealthy 
individuals. Consequently, giving up the villa in May, I came back to 
the United States to secure some from a foundation. 

By now I knew I should be gone for at least another year, and 
someone had to take charge during my absence. The woman on our 
Board of Directors who seemed to be the most selflessly devoted, giv- 
ing time and effort without stint, able to speak and to direct, was Mrs. 
F. Robertson-Jones. She went to meetings in blizzard or rainstorm, by 
subway or on foot if necessary. No dressmaker, no friend dropping in 
to lunch kept her from her job. But she differed from me in one respect. 
She could not run things unless she felt secure ; she wanted a definite 
signing on the dotter*. line for so much annually instead of voluntary 
contributions of what people felt they could afford when they could 
afford it. This was quite against the spirit on which the movement had 
always proceeded, but I was willing to compromise. I did not then 
realize how serious it was going to prove in the future to have ceded 
this fundamental precept. She accepted the temporary presidency and 
I sailed back, reaching Geneva in July. 

I was surprised at the rising tide of international solidarity which, 
in this non-industrial city, evidenced itself in astonishing fashion the 
night Sacco and Vanzetti were to be electrocuted. I had been working 
late at the office and when I came out towards midnight the crowds in 
the streets were so dense I could hardly move. As soon as word came 
in the early morning that the execution had not been stayed, they 
shouted reproaches before the houses of Americans, smashed the win- 
dows of the United States Consulate, and some in the League building. 



GREAT HEIGHTS ARE HAZARDOUS 385 

Even in front of the Hotel des Bergues, where we were stopping, they 
clamored their protests. 

The great Dr. William Welch of Johns Hopkins was in Geneva at 
this time, a cheerful person, roly-poly, abounding in fun and sly, acute 
remarks. To listen to his unimpressive conversation you would never 
suspect that here was one whose name was known around the world. 
We had lunch together one noon. He knew how much I was depending 
on the Conference, how much I was hoping that the population aspect 
of birth control should be started in the right direction and under the 
right auspices. He walked a little way with me and then, putting his 
arm across my shoulders, said, "Perhaps you think your battles are 
over, but they aren't." 

I felt he was trying to prepare me for something having gone wrong, 
though I could not imagine what it was. From then on I was aware of 
an unpleasant subterranean mystery insidiously disturbing the previous 
harmony. But nobody talked openly. 

During my absence in the United States, Sir Bernard had been col- 
lecting his European friends. Not only was Italy intent on increasing 
her population, but the reactionary element of France also had formed 
a society to combat birth control. We had invited the Italians, Gugli- 
elmo Ferrero and Gaetano Salvemini, but Sir Bernard had been in- 
duced to accept as a substitute Corrado Gini, who, dark, swarthy, 
highly egotistical, speaking English painfully, was the perfect mirror 
of Mussolini's sentiments, and turned out to be a most tiresome 
speaker and a general nuisance. 

The delegates, Gini among the first, began to gather late in August. 
The storm broke the Friday before our scheduled opening Tuesday, 
August 31st. Proofs of the official program had just come to me for 
my approval. Sir Bernard came into my office and looked at them. 
"Well, we'll just cross these off," he said, drawing his pencil through 
my name and those of my assistants. 

"Why are you doing that ?" 

"The names of the workers should not be included on scientific 
programs." 

"These people are different," I objected. "In their particular lines 
they are as much experts as the scientists." 



386 MARGARET SANGER 

"It doesn't matter. They can't go on. Out of the question. It's not 
done." 

A long cry of dismay went up from the staff. They considered the 
action reprehensible and petty. The young woman who was to deliver 
the program to the printers would not do so. Saturday morning, secre- 
taries and typists — twenty-one altogether — struck in a body, and with- 
out them the Conference could not proceed successfully. 

While Dr. Little was trying his powers of persuasion on them, 
I reported the situation to Sir Bernard, saying that in justice to the 
women who had given so generously of their time and effort, who had 
raised the money, issued the invitations, paid the delegates' expenses, 
they should be given proper credit. All the latter had had to do was 
walk in at the last moment, present their papers, and take part in the 
social life planned for them. 

Having registered my sentiments, I spent most of Sunday convinc- 
ing the members of the staff that the Conference was bigger than their 
own hurt feelings and making them promise to return; Edith How- 
Martyn, however, who had joined me some time before, refused to 
continue because the hard labor of the workers was not to be acknowl- 
edged. 

Though suspecting that the elimination of my name was the crux 
of the matter, I was still at a loss to know the exact reason back of this 
tempest until one of the delegates told me the story. Sir Eric Drum- 
mond had warned Sir Bernard that these distinguished scientists would 
be the laughing stock of all Europe if it were known that a woman had 
brought them together. Hence, in order to influence Italian and French 
delegates to attend, Sir Bernard had secretly pledged that I was not to 
be a party to the Conference and no discussion of birth control or 
Malthusianism would be allowed. He had hoped that the whole thing 
might be muddled through, and, when the delegates had come drifting 
in, had gone from one to another to urge, "I ask you to stand by me ; 
do not let me down." 

Only our young English friends had held out for the recognition of 
the women. I was not surprised at the Europeans ; but it was difficult 
to comprehend the American attitude on this point. Perhaps Professor 
Pearl and Dr. Little, in agreeing to support Sir Bernard, had not real- 
ised the unf airriess gf the. action. Clarence Little wa§ as honest a human 



GREAT HEIGHTS ARE HAZARDOUS 387 

being as you could find, but sometimes I thought his personal alle- 
giances obstructed his vision ; he used his intelligence to make up argu- 
ments on the side of loyalty rather than on the side of principles. 

At the hour designated the first meeting opened in the Salle Centrale. 
Each delegate had a number of extra tickets, and with the German, 
Belgian, and French contingents came several gentlemen with large 
silver crosses hanging down outside their coats. In the lobby a Gene- 
vese book concern had been permitted to set up a table for the sale of 
volumes by delegates. These guests immediately demanded of Sir 
Bernard that a certain one, of which they disapproved, be banished. 
Sir Bernard trotted to me and said he wished no trouble ; there seemed 
to be some controversy. Would I have the offending books taken 
away? 

I approached the strangers and asked who they were. They vocifer- 
ated in various languages, shaking the book under my nose, getting red 
in the face, looking as though apoplexy might smite them. I sent for 
an interpreter and instructed him to say, "The hall will be for rent 
next Monday. Meantime, I have paid for it and will suffer no dictation 
from anybody as to what shall be done here." 

The disturbers did not depart, and the excitement around the book- 
stand was so considerable that the volumes were sold out and more 
had to be ordered. 

During the course of the Conference the Americans, British, and 
Scandinavians admitted the need for limiting population ; the Germans 
and Czechs concurred, although with less assurance; the Italian and 
Slav voices were definitely opposed; the French, who practiced it at 
home, preached against it publicly. The papers of Professors East and 
Fairchild came perilously near mentioning the forbidden word Mal- 
thusianism, but as for birth control, it was edged about like a bomb 
which might explode any moment. 

At the close of the three days a permanent population union was 
formed which is still meeting — the only international group dealing 
with the problem. 

All the brilliant committee now took trains and steamed off for 
home, leaving me with the bills, the clearing up, and, most important 
of all, the editing of the proceedings. After a rest at a sanitorium at 
Glion in Switzerland I set to work, and by the end of November they 



388 MARGARET SANGER 

had gone to press. I wanted to visit India but had to think of this trip 
in terms of physical fitness and, consequently, was obliged to forego 
it. Instead, I accepted an invitation sent me by Agnes Smedley on be- 
half of the Association of German Medical Women to lecture in Ger- 
many in December. 

The Berlin of 1927 was far different from that of 1920. Food was 
plentiful, if expensive, the Adlon and other restaurants were crowded, 
a stirring of life and nationalism was everywhere to be sensed. At the 
appearance of a Zeppelin in the skies, men in the streets took off their 
hats as though it had been a god. 

When I spoke in the Town Hall of Charlottenburg-Berlin I was 
reminded of the birth strike German women had been carrying on 
when I had last been there. German men seemed to have remembered 
little of this, still thinking they could keep their wives to childbearing, 
"their race function," as it was called. But the women had now defi- 
nitely directed their thoughts from race preservation to self-preserva- 
tion. As I said to my audience, "Birth control has always been prac- 
ticed, beginning with infanticide, which is abhorred, and then by 
abortion, nearly as bad. Contraception, on the other hand, is harm- 
less." I 

Almost before I had finished Dr. Alfred Grotjahn, Professor of 
Social Hygiene at the University of Berlin, who was seeking to present 
the picture of Germany's future greatness in terms of numbers, 
shouted out that every woman ought to have three children before she 
should be allowed contraceptive information. No sooner had he re- 
sumed his seat than several women were demanding recognition. I was 
told one of them was Dr. Marthe Ruben- Wolf . "She's a Communist. 
What she's saying is all on your side, but it won't do any good, because 
nobody has ever been able to cope with Grotjahn." Nevertheless, she 
answered him figure for figure, fact for fact, each based on her ex- 
perience, adding that his patriotism was only skin deep. He might as 
well bury himself now ; he would soon be buried by the rising genera- 
tion and forgotten. 

Then a huge shape arose, garbed in uniform and bonnet. I thought 
she must be a deaconess, but she turned out to be President of the 
Midwives Association. She bellowed in tones even louder than those 
of Grotjahn, putting herself on record against birth control. She could 



GREAT HEIGHTS ARE HAZARDOUS 389 

not be stopped ; she would not sit down even when the bell was rung. 
Others answered her — the debate developed into a regular bear garden 
before the contestants were separated and removed. 

As a result of the meeting some twenty women physicians gathered 
at my hotel two evenings later. Clinics were to be established at Neu- 
koln under Dr. Kurt Bendix, the health administrator of the section ; 
for the first time in history a government agency was actually sanc- 
tioning birth control. I promised fifty dollars a month for three years 
towards supplies; the doctors agreed to furnish rooms and medical 
services. They had a more Feminist point of view than ours in the 
United States ; Ellen Key's liberal influence had seeped through from 
Scandinavia. Nevertheless, I was astonished that in the very country 
where we were purchasing our contraceptives, these outstanding mem- 
bers of their profession knew practically nothing about them/ The 
original clinic was opened the following May and for five years contra- 
ceptive information was given in a dozen places under medical super- 
vision. Then the Nazis came into power, they were closed, and Dr. 
Bendix committed suicide. 

Towards the middle of the month I went to Frank furt-am-Main 
where Dr. Herthe Riese was managing one of the largest of the mar- 
riage advice bureaus, of which there were about fifteen hundred in 
Germany. Anyone could apply to these for legal information and, for 
example, receive enlightenment as to who should have custody of a 
child if illegitimate, the amount of alimony to be paid by the husband 
in case of divorce, the nationality of a child if the father were a for- 
eigner, the effect of sterilization, the results of the marriage of cousins, 
or any problem, including homosexuality and inversion, feeble- 
mindedness and abortion. 

In this period of great unemployment, bearing particularly heavily 
upon families with many children, Dr. Riese had gone to the officers of 
one of the big health insurance companies and persuaded them that it 
would be economical for them to underwrite sterilization of women 
carrying health insurance if this were advised by a doctor. I saw her 
order seventy-five of these major operations one evening between six 
o'clock and eight-thirty in her own clinic. Professor Grotjahn had 
created almost a slogan by his demand that in order to bolster up the 
falling birth rate every wife have three children. But the women had 



390 MARGARET SANGER 

a counter slogan ; they came in saying, "I've had my three. I want an 
operation." I saw also some who had returned from the hospital to 
report. They appeared happy and proud and pleased with themselves. 
Their ten days or two weeks in bed had meant food and much-needed 
rest. 

After Germany I went vacationing to St. Moritz, to play, to skate, 
to ski, in that glorious high altitude. It was transcendently beautiful. 
I used to get up in the morning and listen to the sleighs coming up the 
hill with their tinkling bells, and look out at the scintillating snow ; 
every twig of every tree was encased in ice on which the sun glistened 
without melting it. The scene was a white etching. 

St. Moritz was much frequented by nobility and royalty on holiday. 
Whenever one of them arrived, like a flock of birds the hangers-on 
winged their way thither, settled down in all the hotels so that ordinary 
folk could scarcely find room. 

Almost the first person I met was Lady Astor, more British than the 
British themselves, the Southern accent entirely gone. Her blond hair 
was turned sand-colored, her blue eyes were always gay, her tanned 
and rugged features sharp, mouth and jaw firm set, neck clean cut. 
She was quick-tempered and frank, and ready to take fire easily. Lord 
Astor, who was devoted to his wife, was much more politically astute, 
and usually went campaigning with her. He sat directly behind her, 
and, when the heckling began or a question was posed which might 
involve her in difficulties, he called out in a stage whisper, "Don't be 
drawn, Nancy, don't be drawn !" 

During one House of Commons debate, Lady Astor had attempted 
to drive home a point by stating she was the mother of five children 
and therefore ought to know. 

Her opponent, taking issue with her, had jumped up, saying his 
word should carry more weight on the subject because he was the 
father of seven. 

Lady Astor then retorted, "But I haven't finished yet." 

The British professed to be horrified at this — so vulgar and Ameri- 
can! 

Once after Lady Astor had been off skiing all day, I joined her in 
her room shortly before dinner. She was sitting up in bed, the windows 
wide open, cold cream smeared over her sunburned face, her glasses 



GREAT HEIGHTS ARE HAZARDOUS 39 1 

on her nose, reading Science and Health with the Bible near by. She 
had not quite ended her day's lesson. 

Almost wherever I am, the subject of birth control comes up sooner 
or later, and it did on this occasion. Lady Astor seemed to think her 
religion forbade her believing in it. "If they want babies, let them have 
babies. If they don't want them, let them practice continence." 

"Even accepting that continence is the ultimate ideal," I replied, 
"wouldn't you agree that contraception as an immediate necessity to. 
help millions of women is of equal importance with wearing glasses to 
read the Bible ? As a good Christian Scientist you should not use them. 
Until you get enough faith to go without, don't you think it better to 
read Mary Baker Eddy through some such means as glasses than not 
at all?" 

In one second she beamed. "You're perfectly right. That's only 
reasonable." 

If you present common-sense people with the premise that birth con- 
trol is common sense, they will always react in a common-sense way. 
Lady Astor was a practical person, and from that time on she has 
been a friend of the movement. 



Chapter Thirty-two 



CHANGE IS HOPEFULLY BEGUN 



AS a cause becomes more and more successful, the ideas of the 
L people engaged in it are bound to change. While still at St. Moritz 
I had been getting messages and letters about the disturbing situation 
in the American Birth Control League. I cabled Frances Ackermann 
to take it in hand, but she replied she was unable to bring about a 
friendly solution. 

I found on my return after eighteen months that the tone of the 
movement had altered. The machinery I had built up to be ready for 
any emergency was marking time. An incident which occurred almost 
immediately was highly indicative., During my absence the League had 
been invited to participate in the Parents' Exhibition in the Grand 
Central Palace, and had signed a contract for a certain space. The day 
before the opening came a letter from Robert E. Simon, who was in 
charge, stating that William O'Shea, Superintendent of Public 
Schools, threatened to remove the Board of Education exhibit if ours 
were there, and he therefore requested our withdrawal. 

With time so short I asked an attorney to secure a court injunction 
to prevent our exclusion. But one member of the Board said no step 
should be taken without the approval of all ; a meeting should be called 
to discuss what course was to be adopted. I tried to reach various 
Directors by telephone, but before I could gather a quorum it was too 
late ; the check which paid for our space had been sent back and the 
Exhibition had opened. We were left out. 

392 



CHANGE IS HOPEFULLY BEGUN 393 

Obviously, the old aggressive spirit had been superseded by a doctri- 
naire program of social activity; the League had settled down. I had 
always believed that offerings should be voluntarily measured by the 
individual's desire. In this way you could appeal whenever a special 
occasion warranted and receive anywhere from one dollar to two or 
three hundred. Contributors were giving to something that concerned 
them vitally, and they did it, not because they had signed a pledge for 
a limited sum, but because they wanted to help forward the movement. 
I could not share the League's enthusiasm over the fact that our bank 
account had grown to sizeable proportions — thousands of dollars 
drawing interest, though I admit it must have been a great relief to a 
Board whose previous experience had been to hear wails from the 
President and Treasurer as to our needs for some new project. 

I knew the apathy which came from a fat bank balance. I knew also 
the tacit disapproval which would meet every suggestion to touch that 
precious fund. But my policy had been to spend, not to save, when work 
ought to be done. I discovered that subscribers to the Review had not 
been informed it was time for them to renew their subscriptions, and 
that, consequently, they had diminished from thirteen thousand to 
twenty-five hundred. Accordingly I told the bookkeeper to give fifteen 
or twenty dollars to the clerk to pay for circularizing. She said she 
could not do it ; a bylaw had been made that nobody could direct the 
outlay of more than five dollars without a resolution passed by the 
Board. 

There is doubtless a place for organizations that restrict their scope „ 
to the status quo. Most charities are like that — they live on securities, 
install as officers those who keep pace with but are never in advance of 
general opinion. Two members of the Board, with League-of- Women- 
Voters training, saw the movement in the light of routine, annual 
membership dues and a budget, going through the same ritual year 
after year and remaining that way, performing a quiet service in the 
community. I looked upon it as something temporary, something to 
sweep through, to be done with and finished ; it was merely an instru- 
ment for accomplishment. I wanted us to avail ourselves of every psy- 
chological event, to push ahead until hospitals and public health agen- 
cies took over birth control as part of their regular program, which 
would end our function. 



394 MARGARET SANGER 

Regretfully I found the League was to side-step the greatest and 
most far-reaching opportunity yet offered it. It was logically equipped 
to enter the legislative field. But it wanted to progress state by state. I 
was convinced action in the Federal sphere would be quicker and much 
broader educationally, and that, furthermore, success there would pro- 
vide a precedent for the states. 

When you build an organization, you try to combine harmonious 
elements, but you cannot tell what they will turn out to be until a cer- 
tain interval has elapsed. Some of these women were in the movement v 
for reasons they themselves did not always understand. A few liked the 
sensation of being important and having personal attention ; they were 
at their best in following an individual, yet I never felt they were doing 
it for me. The liberals who had started with me had never demanded a 
reward. What they gave was for the cause ; they refused to work for 
people ; they worked with them or not at all. 

Most movements go through the phase of being brought into the 
drawing room. Those who disagreed with me believed the emphasis 
should be on social register membership, and argued that my associa- 
tions had been radical. The answer was "Yes," because the radicals 
alone had had the vision and the courage to support me in the early 
days. The women who were raising objections now had only joined up 
after it had been safe to do so. Moreover, they were, for the most part, 
New Yorkers, not all of whom had even gone into neighboring states. 
Their attitude tended to be, "Never you mind the West ; let the Empire 
State make the decisions." 

The conflict of views which reigned in various matters was based 
on lives and environments which had been vastly separated. The time 
of some of the members of the Board had to depend on what was left 
from other duties — husbands, children, servants, charities, church 
entertainments, shopping. To me the cause was not a hobby, not a mere 
filler in a whirl of many engagements, not something that could wait 
on this or that mood, but a living inspiration. It came first in my waking 
consciousness and was my last thought as I fell asleep at night. 

I was always willing to present my facts to experts and abide by 
their superior knowledge, and I gave every consideration to the sug- 
gestions of the Board. But I was no paper president. Experience had 
given me a judgment which entitled me to a certain amount of freedom 



CHANGE IS HOPEFULLY BEGUN 395 

of action, and I could not well observe the dictates of people who did 
not know my subject as well as I did. 

June 12, 1928, 1 resigned the presidency of the League. Because the 
majority of the Directors were against this, and because I wanted to 
make it easier for Mrs. Robertson- Jones to take over, I stayed on the 
Board and continued to edit the Review. 

But the divergence of opinions rapidly crystallized in the next few 
months. This had to be pondered upon and wisely dealt with. The 
situation was going to mean constant friction, and the League might 
easily disintegrate into a dying, static thing. In any event, internal dis- 
cord was abhorrent. I began to ask myself whether I could pass over 
the Review, which for eleven years had been a vital part of my own 
being. 

Then came a meeting at which the question of the editorship arose. 
For the first time friend opposed friend. Three voted against me ; the 
other nine were for me. But my mind was now made up. I could fight 
outside enemies but not those who had been my f ellow- workers ; I 
would give complete freedom to others in order to obtain a new free- 
dom for myself. Therefore, I surrendered the Review to the League as 
its private property. I have been sorry that this step was necessary, be- 
cause the magazine changed from being a national and international 
medium for the expression of ideas and became merely a house organ. 
However, I trust that some day it will be possible to broaden its scope 
of usefulness once more. 

The clinic, which had recently been treated rather like an orphan, still 
remained intact. No one in the League had ever paid any attention to 
it, and the doctors on the committee had been too busy with their own 
practices. I felt it was my responsibility, and belonged to me personally. 
It was an interesting angle on my own psychology. I did not regret 
the theoretical part of the movement going into other hands, but I 
would have been traitor to all that had been entrusted to me had I 
yielded the clinic to women who had shown themselves incapable of 
the understanding and sympathy required in its operation. 

One of the most distressing aspects of the impasse was that mem- 
bers of the organization had to forswear one to choose another, and 
this I hated. Juliet Rublee, Frances Ackermann, and Mrs. Walter 
Timme came with me unhesitatingly. So^ too, did Kate Hepburn, Mrs. 



396 MARGARET SANGER 

Day, and Dr. William H. Garth, the only minister on the Board, a 
forthright man who always spoke his mind. 

Dr. Cooper was ready either to go with the clinic or keep on with 
the League in the field if I thought he could be of most use there. It 
seemed to me few in the country could fill his place in speaking to the 
profession and, consequently, I advised him to continue with the latter. 

Anne Kennedy had been loyal, done her job well, served a valuable 
purpose. She asked whether I would approve her affiliating herself 
with the Holland-Rantos Company. Someone was badly needed in 
the manufacturing realm who was at one with our policies, who could 
help to instill pride in quality into the contraceptive business. Although 
I knew she did not like the commercial atmosphere and it would be a 
definite sacrifice for her, it was an excellent choice, and I was sure 
» that any firm she was with would hold fast to ethical standards. 

Mrs. Delafield called me up and I went to see her. "They've tele- 
phoned me three or four times this very day. I've refused to answer 
until I talked with you. What do you want me to do ?" 

I asked her a counter-question. "What do you want? You must go 
as your heart tells you." 

"Well," she replied, "I realize you will now require only profes- 
sionals — doctors, nurses, social workers, people who know politics — 
perhaps I could be of more use in the work with which I am familiar." 

Thus the matter was settled. 

There are many ways by which the same goal may be reached, and 
as a rule diverse ones must be tried out in order to find the best. I still 
believed we were all aiming towards this, although not seeing eye to eye 
on procedure. 

I felt very decidedly that the future of the movement was like that 
of a growing child. You might guide its first faltering steps, but unless 
you let it run and fall it never could develop its own strength. The 
younger generation might need a little pushing and prodding now and 
then, but I was confident that eventually they were going to build 
toward a sound civilization. 

As things recede in time they become of less and less importance. 
One of my absolute theories is that any movement which has been 
based on freedom, as this had been, is like a live cell ; there is a biology 
of ideas as there is a biology of cells, and each goes through a process 



CHANGE IS HOPEFULLY BEGUN 397 

of evolution. The parent cell splits and the new entities in their turn 
divide and divide again. Instead of indicating breakdown, it is a sign 
of health ; endless energy is spent trying to keep together forces which 
should be distinct. Each cell is fulfilling its mission in this separation, 
which in point of fact is no separation at all. Cohesion is maintained 
until in the end the whole is a vast mosaic cleaving together in union 
and strength. 



Chapter Thirty-three 

OLD FATHER ANTIC, THE LAW 



BETWEEN Fifth and Sixth Avenues, practically in the shadow 
of the gray mass of St. Francis Xavier's College, was a 
shabby, brownstone building, Number 46 West Fifteenth Street. 
After the two years of gathering statistical histories at 104 Fifth 
Avenue we decided in 1925 the time had come to expand, and moved 
to this second home of the Clinical Research Bureau. It was next 
to an express agency, three steps down from the street, which was 
generally lined with trucks since the section was thick with lofts, 
factories, and warehouses — not particularly attractive, but inex- 
pensive, and we had a happy Irish landlord who helped convert 
the English basement into offices and reception rooms. 

The clinic was a neighborly place where mothers could congregate. 
We tried to keep it home-like, so that they would not feel an at- 
mosphere of sickness or disease. The patients were accorded just as 
much consideration as a business house gave its clients, and not, 
as in many doctors' anterooms, made to wait indefinitely ; they were 
usually nervous enough anyhow without having to endure added 
suspense. Moreover, they had husbands and children to feed and care 
for, and every hour was precious to them. As they increased, staff 
increased; two physicians were always on hand. We shortly in- 
cluded the first floor, and finally occupied the three. 

About a year before we had changed our location Lord Buck- 
master had introduced in the august House of Lords the memorable 

398 



OLD FATHER ANTIC, THE LAW 399 

resolution which we had discussed when I had been last in England. 
Rarely had such an eloquent voice been lifted for our cause: 

I would appeal on behalf ... of the women upon whose bare 
backs falls the untempered lash of the primeval curse declaring that 
"in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children," the women with the pride 
and glory of their life broken and discrowned, and the flower of 
motherhood turned into nothing but decaying weeds; and on behalf 
of the, children who are thrust into this world unwanted, unwelcomed, 
uncherished, unsustained, the children who do not bring trailing be- 
hind them clouds of glory but the taint of inherited disease, and over 
whose heads there may hover for ever the haunting horror of in- 
herited madness; on behalf of them all I would appeal and as men 
who believe in the great future of our race, I beg of you, I earnestly 
entreat you, to support the motion that I seek to move. 

It is said that these women whom we seek to benefit are so indolent, 
so ignorant, so foolish that they will not come for the information. 
It is not merely that they do come, but the people who make that state- 
ment do that which men so often do — they overlook the women's 
side of the question. What to a man may be a mere triviality, an act 
between a sleep and a sleep and forgotten in a moment, may bring 
to the woman the terror of consequences that we cannot measure, 
of months of sickness, misery, and ill health, ending with hours of 
agony that are not veiled under the cloak of chloroform's most merci- 
ful sleep. These are the people that we want to help. 

We, too, were dedicated to help such women, and each day 
brought more to the doors of our clinic than we could provide in- 
struction for, from all over the country and of all classes. Some 
weeks so many Italian women crowded in that we had to employ an 
interpreter. Then droves of Spanish or of Jewish arrived. 

Merely judging by the letters that had come to me I was prepared 
to find many psychological problems presented. I often thought of 
the high cost of small families for women who had more or less 
restricted their procreative powers through other means than con- 
traception. Although the size was limited, it was frequently ac- 
companied by marital unhappiness and hidden psychic disturbances. 
But the kindness of Dr. Stone aided immeasurably in our informal 
"court of domestic relations." 

One hot July day when I was coming out of the clinic I saw a 
woman, obviously pregnant, carrying a year-and-a-half-old baby, 



400 MARGARET SANGER 

dragging another one, only a trifle bigger, crying behind her. The 
little girl's shoes were too short and were pinching her toes. I 
squirmed myself, remembering my own squeezed feet as a child. 
I caught up with her. "Can't I carry one of the babies? This one 
seems tired. Which way are you going ?" 

"Can you tell me where the jail is?" 

"The nearest one is on Spring Street, I think." 

"No, there's a jail somewheres around here." 

"Didn't you get the address?" 

"Yes, but I left it on the table." 

"What do you want a jail for?" 

"My man's there." 

"What for?" 

"Leaving me. He always does when I get like this." 

"How many children have you?" 

"Nine." 

"How often has he left you?" 

"This is the fourth time now." 

"Do you want any more children?" 

"No!" emphatically. 

"Did you ever know there was a way to stop having so many?" 

She almost dropped the infant, took hold of me, and said, "They 
won't give it to me. I'm asking everybody. They'll only give it to 
the rich. He wants it. He'll even have an operation. But nobody'll 
tell us." 

I wrote down our street and number and said, "You go back 
to that place where I met you, and the doctor there will tell you 
about it." 

The next day I was called up unofficially by a social worker, one 
of those who used to send us cases on their own initiative. She 
wished to explain to me : the husband would be let off if he promised 
to live with his family and support them ; otherwise he had to serve 
a sentence. His wife had seen him and shown him my note; he had 
said he would rather go to the Island for three years than come out, 
unless we could not only guarantee his getting the information, but, 
furthermore, that it would work. He was fed up with having a new 
baby every year. 



OLD FATHER ANTIC, THE LAW 4OI 

We suggested he talk it over with us and bring his wife. She was 
silent, glum, did not appear to know what it was all about. He was 
discouraged and doubtful. We gave him the information and he 
departed. "I'm the one to do this. She won't," glaring at his wife, 
who tagged on behind him. 

We hoped for the best. 

About half a year later both returned for the check-up, she with 
her hand on his arm. This vague, dumb, immobile woman was now 
in spruce jacket and skirt, head up, stepping lightly. You would never 
have known her for the same person. The two were off to the 
movies together. 

Few social workers were understanding enough to smooth the 
lives of people in such difficulties. One agency was told by a doctor 
that a certain family on its rolls must not increase ; the mother had 
already borne four babies and had a bad heart. A visiting nurse re- 
layed this to the husband one Sunday morning when he was home 
from work. "If your wife becomes pregnant again, you'll be a mur- 
derer." 

He was frightened. "I don't want to kill her. What shall I do?" 

"Sleep alone." 

The husband's disposition began to change; he became gloomy, 
would not talk to his wife, was ugly in sudden tempers, slapped, 
shouted at, and even kicked the children, rushed into the house to 
eat his meals and then out again, not retreating to his own bed un- 
til after she was in hers, which had been made up in the kitchen 
where it was warm. She was so unhappy over the metamorphosis 
that she made tentative approaches, whereupon he beat her and ran 
into the street. The next day she marched to the nurses' settlement 
to tell them what she thought of them. "If all you can do is keep 
my husband from me, stay away. I'd rather be dead than live like 
this!" ' 

The case was taken to a physician, who sensibly warned, "You 
can't separate people by such barriers. That's not the answer." 

Then she was sent to us. After she had been instructed the tension 
lessened and the domestic situation was remedied. 

In another family of six children, the husband, part Italian and 
part some other nationality, was affectionate and irresponsible. 



402 MARGARET SANGER 

Every time he walked in the door, wreathed in smiles, his wife 
greeted him with frowns and scowls. She threw dishes and pots 
at him. He thought she was crazy and asked to have her committed. 
A psychiatrist talked to her and found she was in deadly fear of 
being pregnant again. When we saw her she really appeared to be 
demented. 

One forenoon, six months later, as I passed through the waiting 
room, the nurse at the desk tendered her usual, "Good morning, 
Mrs. Sanger." Immediately a neat, trim woman came over to me. 

"Look at me," she beamed. "You don't know me. I was the one 
who sat there and they said I was crazy. I don't look crazy now, 
do I? I wasn't crazy then — just worried to death." 

For four years we went along in the clinic, working steadily, 
straightening mental tangles and relieving physical distress when 
we could. Then, early in the morning of April 15, 1929, the tele- 
phone in my apartment rang, startling me. I was pretty nervous, 
having been up all night with Stuart, who had mastoiditis. His tem- 
perature was running high, and he was suffering with terrible, in- 
describable pain. 

I took off the receiver. "Hello. This is Anna. The police are here 
at the clinic." Briefly she related how they had descended without 
warning, stamped into the basement, and were at that moment tear- 
ing things to pieces. 

With this meager information pounding through my brain I 
hastened to the street, hailed a taxi, and urged the driver to go as 
fast as he could to West Fifteenth Street. 

The shade to the glass door was pulled down ; the door itself was 
locked. I knocked and a plain-clothes man of the Vice Squad opened 
it. "Well, who are you?" 

"I'm Mrs. Sanger and I want to come in." 

My request was passed on to a superior and I heard someone 
answer, "Let her in." 

Inside, in a room more than ordinarily small because partitions had 
sliced it up to make minute consultation booths, the patients were 
sitting quietly, some of them weeping. Detectives were hurrying aim- 
lessly here and there like chickens fluttering about a raided roost, 
calling to each other and, amid the confusion, demanding names 



OLD FATHER ANTIC, THE LAW 403 

and addresses. The three nurses were standing around ; Dr. Elizabeth 
Pissoort was practically in hysterics. 

Dr. Stone was aloof, utterly unmoved by the tumult and the 
noise. I have always admired her attitude. This was the first time 
in her life she had been arrested, yet she treated it so lightly. "Isn't 
this fantastic?" she remarked. "Only a few moments ago a visiting 
physician from the Middle West asked one of the nurses whether 
we ever had any police interference. 'Oh, no,' the nurse cheerfully 
replied. 'Those days are over.' " 

Stocky Mrs. Mary Sullivan, head of the City Policewomen's 
Bureau, was superintending the raid in person. Her round, thick- 
set face might have been genial when smiling, but was very terrify- 
ing when flushed with anger. She was giving orders to her minions 
in such rapid succession that it seemed impossible to keep pace with 
them. I tried to talk to her, asking why she had come and what 
it was all about. 

"You'll see," said Mrs. Sullivan, and went on directing the patrol- 
men who were removing books from shelves, pictures and diagrams 
from walls, and sweeping out the contents of medical cabinets. 
In their zeal I noticed they were seizing articles from the sterilizers, 
such as gloves and medicine droppers, having no sinister significance 
whatsoever. They were also gathering up the various strange, weird 
devices patients had brought us to inquire as to their efficacy, and 
which we exhibited as curios. 

Patrol woman Anna McNamara, far less assured than her chief, 
was consulting a list in her hand and turning over the case histories 
in the files as swiftly as her fingers could move. Many of these 
contained the personal confessions of women, some of whom had en- 
trusted u-s with the knowledge that their husbands had venereal 
disease or insanity. It ran through my mind that dire misfortune 
could follow in the way of being blackmailed by anyone obtaining 
the records. 

I requested Mrs. Sullivan to show me her search warrant, and 
saw it had been signed by Chief Magistrate McAdoo. Nevertheless, 
I cautioned her, "You have no right to touch those files. Not even the 
nurses ever see them. They are the private property of the doctors, 
and if you take them you will get into trouble." 



404 MARGARET SANGER 

"Trouble," she snapped back. "I get into trouble ? What about the 
trouble you're in?" 

"I wouldn't change mine for yours." 

"Well, this is my party. You keep out." 

One of the policemen scooped up v all the name cards and stuffed 
them into a waste basket to be carried off as "evidence." This was a 
prime violation of medical ethics; nothing was more sacred to a doc- 
tor than the confidences of his patients. Immediately Anna telephoned 
Dr. Robert L. Dickinson at the Academy of Medicine that the police 
were confiscating the case histories of patients and asked him to 
recommend a lawyer. He suggested Morris L. Ernst, whom Anna 
then called. 

Doctors, nurses, and evidence were being hustled into the street. 
The patrol wagon had arrived, but I summoned taxicabs in which 
we rode to the West Twentieth Street station. On the way I heard 
part of the story, which accounted for my non-arrest. About three 
weeks earlier a woman who had registered under the name of Mrs. 
Tierney had come for contraceptive advice and, on examination, 
was found by both doctors to have rectocele, cystocele, prolapsus of 
the uterus, erosions, and retroversion. Although not informed of her 
exact condition, she was instructed, because another pregnancy 
would be dangerous, and told to return for a check-up. She had 
now done so under her rightful name of McNamara, including in 
her entourage Mrs. Sullivan and a police squad. 

Dr. Stone, Dr. Pissoort, and the three nurses were booked for 
violation of Section 1142, though I attempted to explain the clinic 
had been active for six years quite legally under the exception, Sec- 
tion 1 145. At Jefferson Market Court, to which we next traveled, 
Magistrate Rosenbluth looked over the warrant and ordered a three- 
hundred-dollar bond for each. 

The succeeding morning I sent Stuart to a hospital for treatment ; 
I had to attend a meeting in Boston, and the day after that go to 
Chicago for a series of lectures. Again I was obliged to leave him, 
and this time with even more misgivings. At Buffalo came a tele- 
gram saying a mastoid operation had been performed. At Chicago I 
telephoned the doctor and was reassured. The moment my duties 



OLD FATHER ANTIC, THE LAW 405 

were over I hurried back to be with him, and, incidentally, to attend 
the hearings. 

I still had no idea of the fate of the case histories and had been 
very worried. Now I learned that the evening after the raid Magis- 
trate McAdoo had been dining with Dr. Karl Reiland, my husband's 
pastor. Dr. Reiland, much upset, had remarked upon its out- 
rageousness. Justice McAdoo, aghast and horrified to find that, with- 
out reading it, he had signed this warrant, just one of many laid 
on his desk, had called up the police station without delay, saying 
that all the twenty-four histories must be put in his safe and kept 
there until he arrived in the morning. He had perceived instantly 
that those doctors' records were going to be a serious embarrass- 
ment. 

One hundred and fifty cards, our sole memoranda of names and 
addresses, were never restored. Catholic patients, whose records had 
thus been purloined, received mysterious and anonymous telephone 
calls warning them if they continued to go to the clinic their private 
lives would be exposed. They came to us asking fearfully, "Will 
I get in the papers ?" 

Immediately after the raid various doctors volunteered to go on 
the stand and testify as to the medical principles involved. The New 
York County Medical Society was aroused and passed a resolution 
protesting against the seizure. Through Dr. Dickinson's foresight- 
edness and energetic interest the Academy of Medicine held a special 
meeting which resolved : 

We view with grave concern any action on the part of the authori- 
ties which contravenes the inviolability of the confidential relations 
which always have and should obtain between physicians and their 
patients. / 

Police Commissioner Grover A. Whalen, then embroiled in a 
mortifying, futile investigation of the murder of Arnold Rothstein, 
the gambler, had termed the raid a "routine matter," but when Dr. 
Linsley Williams, Director of the Academy, wrote a letter of pro- 
test, he decided it might not have been so routine as it had appeared, 
and apologized. 



406 MARGARET SANGER 

What had caused the raid in the first place ? I employed the Burns 
Detective Agency to sift the affair. Approximately fifty percent of 
our cases were being sent by social workers on the lower East and 
West Sides, a conglomerate ofv all peoples and classes, including 
Irish, Italians, and other Catholics. So many had benefited and told 
their neighbors that others also were asking of their agencies how 
to get to our clinic. Catholic social workers, at a monthly meeting 
with officials of the Church, had sought guidance in replying to 
parishioners, and the ecclesiastics had been shocked to find that a clinic 
existed. Catholic policewomen had been summoned, Mary Sullivan 
had been chosen to wipe out the Clinical Research Bureau, and Mrs. 
McNamara selected for the decoy. 

Morris Ernst, who had accepted our case, had already won a 
reputation for his espousal of liberal causes. It was most encourag- 
ing to discover a lawyer who was as convinced as we that the prin- 
ciple of the law was the important issue. Although he seemed very 
young, the moment I talked with him I recognized here was the per- 
son for us. He was a good psychologist as well as a good lawyer. 
He tried to bring everything out, but wanted the evidence correct 
and the minds of the witnesses straight as to what had happened. 

On April 21st, when Magistrate Rosenbluth called the case, the 
attitude in the courtroom was far different from anything exhibited 
at previous birth control hearings. Only one witness was heard that 
day, Mrs. McNamara. In spite of the hostility of Assistant District 
Attorney Hogan, which was to be expected, and in spite of the 
Magistrate's prompting that she was a policewoman and not required 
to tell all, Mrs. McNamara was made to confess she had set out 
deliberately to deceive the clinic doctors. As she testified under Mr. 
Ernst's cross-examination what she had done, her stolid face turned 
from pink to purple. On her first visit she had learned the routine 
and on her second, being left alone, had copied down the number of 
every name card lying on Dr. Stone's desk. 

Murmurs rose among the spectators, a melodious sound to ears 
still echoing with the harsh and suspicious accents of a mere twelve 
years before. 

After forty minutes Magistrate Rosenbluth adjourned the hearing 
over our protests; if the object had been to secure a quieter and less 



OLD FATHER ANTIC, THE LAW 407 

sympathetic audience the ensuing day it failed. Now physicians took 
the stand : Dr. Dickinson, Dr. Frederick C. Holden, Dr. Foster Ken- 
nedy, the neurologist. The climax came when Mr. Hogan asked Dr. 
Louis T. Harris, former Commissioner of Health of New York 
City, whether he had ever given any information to a patient re- 
gardless of a marriage certificate. Dr. Harris answered, "The birth 
control clinic is a public health work. Every woman desiring treat- 
ment is asked whether she is married." 

"Don't they have to bring their marriage certificates with them?" 

"No." 

The Magistrate leaned forward ponderously and heavily. "Does not 
the clinic send out social workers to discover the truth of patients' 
statements ?" 

Mr. Ernst interpolated, "Did you ever know of a situation where 
a doctor dispatched a detective to find out whether his patient were 
married ?" 

Loud laughter came from the listeners. Judge Rosenbluth pounded 
his gavel. "Unless there is absolute silence I shall clear the court 
room." Then, seeming to grow more angry, he added, "On second 
thought I shall clear it anyhow. Out you go." 

The joke was on him. It was the doctors who had laughed the 
loudest and their presence as witnesses could not be dispensed with. 
Following a fifteen-minute recess the audience was once again in the 
room, more partisan than ever. 

Young Mr. Hogan tried to be dramatic, but he failed before our 
attorney's cold uncompromising logic. He took up one of the pes- 
saries that had been appropriated in the raid and addressed Dr. Har- 
ris. "You know that the laws of New York State are that contra- 
ception may be given only for the cure or prevention of disease. Do 
you dare to claim this article will cure tuberculosis? Will it cure 
cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease?" 

Again came mirth. No one assumed a pessary or any other form 
of contraceptive could effect a cure. "But," replied Dr. Harris, "in 
preventing conception it may be said to cure because pregnancy can 
often be the cause of furthering the progress of a disease." 

A month later the defendants were discharged, Magistrate Rosen- 
bluth writing an admirably lucid, fair, and definite decision : 



408 MARGARET SANGER 

Good faith in these circumstances is the belief of the physician 
that the prevention of conception is necessary for a patient's health 
and physical welfare. 

Mrs. Sullivan was temporarily demoted. She continued, however, 
to be paid the same salary as before, and was eventually restored to 
rank. 

It was an ill wind that did not blow somebody good. After this our 
calendars were filled three weeks in advance, and we had to add two 
evenings a week to the daily routine. To our amazement among the 
many patients there appeared one afternoon Mrs. McNamara, who 
had first heard in court of her five ailments, every one of which legally 
entitled her to contraceptive information. She had come back to ask 
Dr. Stone whether she really had so many things the matter with her, 
and was assured the diagnosis was correct. 

The raid had been one of the worst errors committed by the op- 
position, because it had touched the doctors in a most sensitive spot, 
the sanctity of records, and they were obliged to stand by us, whether 
they wanted to or not. Even so we were not yet certain that the ques- 
tion had been settled for all time. At any moment our Irish landlord 
might receive orders from his bishop to eject us. To avoid any such 
contingency and to take care of the increasing numbers, in 1930 we 
bought a house of our own at Seventeen West Sixteenth Street. 

Our new building gave us not only more room for patients but 
better opportunities for research. It was a sad commentary that 
though medicine had evolved into the preventive state where it was 
causing a revolution in sanitation and health education, contraceptive 
technique had been little advanced since the days of Mensinga. 

However, research was going on in various lands under the most 
diverse conditions. A modern clinic had started up again in the Neth- 
erlands, a memorial to Aletta Jacobs and bearing her name. It was 
based on the old Rutgers standards which had lapsed for so long. 
America and England, as the consequence of guiding the movement 
along professional lines and putting emphasis on the keeping of 
records, had made the greatest strides. But all accomplishments needed 
to be correlated, co-ordinated, unified in a scientific conference. 
Zurich was a central location for many countries, and, in addition, 
offered beautiful scenery in abundance; it was a pleasant place to be. 



OLD FATHER ANTIC, THE LAW 409 

September I, 1930, some one hundred and thirty physicians and 
directors of clinics from different parts of the world began compar- 
ing notes and reporting progress. Only the present generation was 
behind the times. A representative from the Netherlands one day 
stood up, a rather youthful person, and said, "I am glad to announce 
that at last we in the Netherlands have also a birth control clinic." 
This was extraordinary in view of the fact that the Netherlands had 
been the pioneer country and had inspired us all. 

Even more recently I encountered a young matron, a member of 
the American Birth Control League and head of the state organiza- 
tion in New Jersey, who had again utterly disassociated herself from 
history. She urged, "Mrs. Sanger, can't we convert you to the estab- 
lishment of clinics? You know, they're going, they're being estab- 
lished all over the country." 

"When were you born?" was all I could gasp. 

These two women epitomized a day which had not studied what 
had gone before; if new to their minds, then it was new. 

In contrast to Geneva and its problems in tact, Zurich was a dove- 
cote. One slight incident alone disturbed the calm. I had gone to 
Berlin to secure delegates and there in a public theater had seen a 
film which had traversed the length and breadth of Germany as 
propaganda for abortion under safe conditions. The scene opened 
with feet endlessly passing on the streets; you saw a kerchief drop, 
a masculine hand reach down to pick it up, the boy and girl at lunch, 
she looking up at him wide-eyed. Soon she was obliged to go to a 
femme savante in a filthy narrow old alley ; you watched her ascend the 
rickety stairs, an ancient crone peeling potatoes, shoving wood in 
the stove with dirty hands, the agony in the girl's face. It was a suc- 
cession of pictures such as this, straight out of life itself. 

I had borrowed the film and rented a theater in Geneva. To my 
great surprise and no little amusement when the Caesarian section 
appeared on the screen several men and women in the audience be- 
gan to faint, among them our own workers, even Edith How- 
Martyn. One, a young scientist, had to be led out and given a drink 
to brace him up. Cars and taxis were commandeered to cart the 
squeamish back to their hotels. 

This Conference must remain a milestone because there all propa- 



41 MARGARET SANGER 

ganda, all moral and ethical aspects of the subject were forgotten. 
The whole problem was lifted out of the troubled atmosphere of 
theory, where previously it had been battered by the winds of doc- 
trine and the brutal gusts of prejudice, into the current of serene, im- 
personal, scientific abstraction. It was too early to tell what practical 
results might ensue, but at least we soon received the assurance that 
certain doctors would welcome efficient contraceptives. 

Individual physicians in New York had since 1923 taken serious 
thought of the need for contraception. Mrs. Amos Pinchot had or- 
ganized certain outstanding members of the Academy of Medicine 
into the Committee on Maternal Health. They had been fortunate 
enough to secure the well-known retired gynecologist, Dr. Dickinson, 
as secretary. He had trained many of the younger men and was able 
to bring into the movement doctors who would have paid slight at- 
tention to anyone less admired and honored. With the aid of various 
foundations, the Committee on Maternal Health had been doing a fine 
piece of work in publishing the findings of scientists in brochures 
and pamphlets. 

The Academy, after the Zurich Conference, formally declared 
that "the public is entitled to expect counsel and information by the 
medical profession on the important and intimate matter of con- 
traceptive advice." 

We had been attaining small victories, and little by little and bit 
by bit the Protestant churches had begun to regard us favorably. In 
September, 1925, the House of Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal 
Church, meeting at Portland, Oregon, had gone on record against 
birth control. Later some of the wives of these same bishops had 
come to me in New York and asked my help in educating their hus- 
bands. A group of three had taken it upon themselves to see that every 
bishop was thoroughly enlightened. The consequence of the cam- 
paign was that at a subsequent meeting in 1934 they reversed their 
original stand. 

Even the Jews had on occasion been in opposition. Rabbi Misch- 
kind of Tremont Temple had been rebuked by his Board of Trustees 
for having invited me to speak one Sunday morning. Rather than 
surrender he had resigned and found another synagogue in which I 
could appear. 



OLD FATHER ANTIC, THE LAW 41 1 

Now the Central Conference of American Rabbis urged the recog- 
nition of birth control. The hundred and seventieth conference of 
the Methodist Church sanctioned it and the American Unitarian 
Association did the same. A special commission appointed by the 
Presbyterian General Assembly to study the problems of divorce and 
remarriage admitted the desirability of restricting births under medi- 
cal advice. And in March, 1931, the Committee on Marriage and the 
, Home of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America 
approved it. 

Due in large measure to Lord Dawson's eloquence, the Bishops 
at Lambeth gave us one of our greatest triumphs by voting 193 to 
67 in favor of birth control. Bernard Shaw believed the Church of 
England was making a "belated attempt to see whether it could catch 
up with the Twentieth Century." 

Ever since the outburst of religious intolerance at Town Hall, 
it had been apparent that in the United States the Catholic hierarchy 
and officialdom were going to be the principal enemies of birth con- 
trol. From city to city you could feel this. At Albany we could not 
have a hall because the police commissioner was a Catholic. In Cin- 
cinnati the Knights of Columbus almost succeeded in barring us from 
the hotel. At Syracuse the mayor had to veto the ordinance of the 
Catholic Council before we could hold a conference there. When I 
was to give a lecture in Milwaukee the Catholic Women's League 
came to protest the meeting to Socialist Mayor Hoane. He had told 
them, however, "If I prevent Mrs. Sanger from speaking because 
you protest, I shall also have to prevent you from speaking when 
others object to Catholic doctrine. Free speech must prevail in Mil- 
waukee." 

Tactics aiming to bring about a reconciliation between the Angli- 
cans and Rome had been rendered futile by the endorsement of the 
Bishops. I suspected the demand for a clear statement from the Vati- 
can on the question originated in the United States where Catholic 
women were showing a gradual yet persistent spirit of independence. 
In spite of Church canons they were using contraceptives, and the 
Church, in its wisdom, was obliged to change the law to keep its 
parishioners from breaking it. In December came the answer in the 
form of a Papal Encyclical. The world moved but the Pope sat still. 



412 MARGARET SANGER 

He declared that he was "looking with paternal eye — as from a 
watch-tower." But what was he looking at? 

The Pope said over and over again that sexual intercourse, unless 
definitely designed to produce children, was against nature and a sin ; 
he roundly condemned any contraceptive and he affirmed that in 
the matter of limiting families continence alone was permissible. Yet 
in the selfsame document he nullified his previous insistance that 
procreation was the sole justification of marital relations by counte- 
nancing them at times when pregnancy could not result. These times he 
made indefinite; they might refer to sterility, post-menopause, or the 
so-called "safe period" during the menstrual cycle; in fine, he was 
saying first, that you might not have intercourse unless you expected 
to have a child, and, in the same breath, that you might have inter- 
course when you could not possibly have a child. This Jesuitical in- 
consistency allowed a loophole for the issuance of the Latz Foundation 
booklet entitled The Rhythm of Sterility and Fertility in Women, pub- 
lished with "ecclesiastical approval" and recommended by Catholic 
societies. 

It had become part of my routine to answer every challenge to 
the cause, just as I tried to answer every question at a meeting. Here 
again was the hoary "nature" argument which should have been in 
its grave long since. The contention that it was sin-to interrupt na- 
ture in her processes was simple nonsense. The Pope frustrated her 
by shaving or having his hair cut. Whenever we caught a fish or 
shot a wolf or slaughtered a lamb, whenever we pulled a weed or 
pruned a fruit tree, we too frustrated nature. Disease germs were 
perfectly natural little fellows which had to be frustrated before we 
could get well. As for the alleged "safe period" which Rhythm now 
set forth, what could be more unnatural than to restrict intercourse 
to the very time when nature had least intended it ? 

But, taking one consideration with another, it seemed to me then 
that the birth control idea was rolling merrily along. I could sympa- 
thize with an indignant old radical who left a birth control congress 
sniffing, "This thing has got too darned safe for me." 



Chapter Thirty-four 

SENATORS, BE NOT AFFRIGHTED 



"OHOULD the Federal Laws Be Changed?" was the subject of 

C3 my debate with Chief Justice Richard B. Russell of Georgia, 
who had had eighteen children by two wives. I always welcomed a 
debate, although after the first few years it had been almost impossible 
to find anyone to defend the other side, and therefore I was pleased 
to be called to Atlanta, in May, 1 93 1 , for this one. 

The old judge, white-haired and with white eyebrows and mus- 
tache, his figure still erect, fixed me with a glance, sometimes satiric 
and sometimes flaming with the rage of an Old Testament prophet. 
He talked of the sacredness of motherhood, the home, and the 
State of Georgia. "We don't need birth control in Georgia. We've 
had to give up two Congressmen now because we don't have enough 
people. If New York wants to wipe out her population, she can. We 
need ours.' ... I can take care of all the children God sent me. I 
believe God sent them to me because they have souls. Poodle dogs 
and jackasses don't have souls. I have obeyed the command of God 
to 'increase and multiply.' " 

His children and their wives and their relatives occupying several 
rows of seats down front applauded vigorously. 

On the train coming back I bought a paper and noted with sur- 
prise that I had been awarded the American Women's Association 
medal for accomplishments on behalf of women, and was supposed 
to be receiving it that night in New York. I sent a telegram of thanks 

413 



414 MARGARET SANGER 

to Anne Morgan saying that I had just learned about it and there 
was no way of my attending. 

It was nice to be handed a medal instead of a warrant ; at the post- 
poned dinner, organized by John A. Kingsbury, a director of the 
Milbank Fund, I sat there listening to the beautiful tributes and 
asked myself, "Is it really true? Am I awake? Or is it a dream?" I 
never thought of the medal as being given to me as a person, but to 
the cause, the women I represented, and, representing them, went 
through the act of accepting it. 

As I was trying to express this, a little woman who used to appear 
frequently on all sorts of occasions came up through the well- 
groomed audience, climbed to the platform, offered me a bouquet of 
flowers from the Brownsville mothers. "You are our Abraham Lin- 
coln," she said, unconscious of the smiles, amused yet sympathetic, 
of the audience. She left a kiss upon my brow and hurriedly went 
back to her place. To me she embodied the spirit of Mrs. Sachs, who 
had died so long ago — all I was still working for, though through 
channels which had broadened immeasurably since then. 

In the beginning of the birth control movement the main purpose 
had been the mitigation of women's suffering, Comstock law or no 
Comstock law. Its very genesis had been the conscious, deliberate, 
and public violation of this statute. Later, to change it became im- 
perative, so that the millions who depended upon dispensaries and 
hospitals could be instructed by capable hands. 

In 19 1 8 Mary Ware Dennett had dissolved the old National Birth 
Control League into the Voluntary Parenthood League, which had 
for its aim the repeal of the Federal law. This seemed fine on the 
surface but repeal would permit anyone to give and send contraceptive 
devices as well as information to anyone through the mails regardless 
of standards-or quality. Mrs. Dennett still looked upon the movement 
as a free-speech and free-press issue, just as I had done before going 
to the Netherlands. Now I considered no one had sufficient knowledge 
of the possible consequences of some contraceptives to permit them 
to be manufactured or distributed without guidance or direction. They 
might kill the birth control movement as well as some of the women 
who used them. No sponsor could be found until in 1923 Senator 
Cummins had introduced her repeal, or so-called open bill, in which 



SENATORS, BE NOT AFFRIGHTED 415 

the lack of safeguards was severely criticized. Therefore she had had 
it reintroduced in 1924 with a clause added that all literature contain- 
ing contraceptive information must be certified by five physicians as 
"not injurious to life or health." This bill, practically impossible of ap- 
plication, died in committee. 

Since we believed information should be disseminated only by 
doctors we had kept very quiet and out of it during those years. But 
we had our own ideas of what sort of legislation we preferred. When 
Mrs. Dennett retired and her organization ceased its work Mrs. Day, 
Anne Kennedy, and I, in January, 1926, went down to Washington 
on a scouting expedition to take a survey of the mental attitude of 
Congressmen and discover whether their reaction was more favor- 
able towards a repeal bill or our proposal of an "amended doctors' 
bill." We set up headquarters and began interviewing senators until 
we had satisfied ourselves that personal sentiment was more in favor 
of our policy. 

We thought it advisable also to sound out the Catholic stand. Get- 
ting together was the trend of the times. Eugenists, the Voluntary 
Parenthood League, the American Birth Control League, all were 
trying to meet each other. People of tolerant opinions had always 
felt the Catholic Church was too clever to oppose a movement that in- 
evitably it would some day have to sanction, and the tumult and in- 
terference was simply the result of local ignorance and bigotry; if 
we could reach the scholarly heads themselves, if we could all "sit at 
a table and talk things over," we would find their ideals of humani- 
tarianism were much like our own. 

Consequently, Anne had an interview with members of the Catho- 
lic Welfare Conference, including Monsignor John Ryan, John M. 
Cooper, Ph.D., Father Burke, and other prelates. We thought we 
would agree on the doctors' bill — that they surely wanted the public 
safeguarded from the misuse of contraceptives. But they unequivo- 
cally set forth their objections; not even a physician's indisputable 
right to save lives swayed them. They declared it was their office to 
see that no "social or moral" legislation passed Congress that did not 
conform to the tenets of Catholic doctrine; they would attempt to 
prevent any^such bill from becoming a law. Anne wrote out a report 
of the interview, including this shocking statement, and showed it to 



41 6 MARGARET SANGER 

them so they might have an opportunity to correct it if they so desired. 
They left it essentially as written. 

Considering this a fundamental issue of liberty and life not af- 
fecting birth control alone, I took the presumptuous document to 
H. L. Mencken, supposedly the outstanding libertarian in America. 
He had the power to evoke a response from thinking minds, even 
though they were rock-bound in patriotic dogmas; he had knocked 
down a great many gods, chiefly along political and religious lines. 

Trusting that Mencken would make an effective protest in the 
American Mercury, I talked to him, explained the situation, predict- 
ing that if we let this go unnoticed we should all have to endure the 
future consequences. He admitted the Catholic action was brazen, 
but mentioned the fact that he had too many friends of that faith in 
Baltimore for him to attack their church. I gained the impression he 
was out to slash and hit where the cause was obviously popular, but 
had no intention of leading a forlorn hope or playing the role of a 
pioneer for freedom. He never fulfilled the expectations I once had 
of him; he was not a tree bearing fruit but a spoon stirring around, 
very much of a "Yes, but-er." He said, "Oh, yes, that is grand, but, 
on the other hand, there is this to be said for the other side." 

In our campaign of educating the public in the necessity for 
changing the Federal statute I began having regional conferences in 
the East, South, Middle West, West, and linking them all into an 
organization to support the bill. One of these was at Los Angeles. 
At first most of the Westerners wanted an open bill such as Mrs. 
Dennett's, and I stood rather alone on the doctors' amendment, which 
was only approved on the last night of the Conference by a very nar- 
row margin. 

As the people filed out I saw at the end of the room a thin, almost 
emaciated woman with gray hair, somewhat shabby, but not un- 
usually so. She held out a bony hand to clasp mine, saying practically 
nothing, just a word or two, and her name, Kaufman, came to me. I 
remembered it because Viola Kaufman had been one of the small 
subscribers to birth control in the past, and I was familiar with most 
of these names. I thought nothing further of it at the time. 

Wanting all the endorsement I could get for the doctors' bill, and 
particularly that of the American Medical Association, I made a 



SENATORS, BE NOT AFFRIGHTED 417 

special trip to Chicago to see Dr. Morris Fishbein, who was a power 
in that organization. I asked for advice or help, and offered to draw 
up a bill in any way which would suit them. Dr. Fishbein appeared 
sympathetic and turned me over to Dr. William C. Woodward, the 
legislative director ; we had a pleasant conversation and that was all. 
Though he made no comment as to its merits or demerits, I put the bill 
on record in their office. 

Tried and true friends, whose -abilities and loyalties had been 
tested and proved, rallied around the National Committee on Federal 
Legislation for Birth Control, which established its headquarters in 
Washington in 1931. Frances Ackermann assisted my husband -as 
Treasurer. For Vice President we had Mrs. Walter Timme who had 
left the League of Women Voters, a fine speaker, a clear-thinking cru- 
sader, a devoted ally of long standing. Tall, large-framed, broad- 
shouldered, she could harangue audiences in the strong, convincing, 
and forceful fashion of the early, suffrage, soapbox days — nothing 
delicate or fragile. When she had an idea, it was an idea, and she 
stated it as an idea. More than once our bank account would have 
faded to a mere wraith had it not been for Ida Timme' s money-raising 
talents. 

Mrs. Alexander C. Dick was Secretary. She had the old-fashioned 
head of a daguerreotype, but was thoroughly modern in her verve 
and gay personality and her quick agility of mind. Since 191 6, when 
I had first known her, she had been really interested in the research end 
of birth control, and definitely had agreed with the then new war cry 
that it should be under medical supervision. It was mainly due to her 
and her late husband, Charles Brush of Cleveland, that Ohio had had 
from the beginning one of the best organized and conducted state 
leagues. 

Kate Hepburn was Chairman. In her long public career she had 
learned great efficiency and was so careful of minutiae that she never 
let our witnesses run over their time. Just as we were swinging along 
briskly she invariably tugged at a coat and passed over a little slip — 
"time up in one minute." 

Best of all our lobbyists was Mrs. Hazel Moore, our Legislative 
Secretary, who had left the Red Cross in the South to support us. 
Nothing could withstand her indefatigable enthusiasm, and it took 



41 8 MARGARET SANGER 

a stout Senator to harden his heart against her feminine ruses and 
winning manners. 

We now began to be initiated into the A B C of Federal legislative 
procedure. After your bill had been drawn up, you had to find a Con- 
gressman to introduce it. Sometimes he believed in it a hundred per- 
cent; sometimes he believed in the individual a hundred percent; 
sometimes he sponsored it only to be accommodating and agreeable, 
in which case it was called "by request," a very weak way since you 
knew he was not going to fight for it. When introduced, the bill 
was read in the House or Senate and at once referred to a committee, 
those having to do with changing a law to the Judiciary. Ours was 
difficult to manage at first, because we were trying to alter several 
statutes simultaneously, not merely Section 211 and everything per- 
taining to mails and common carriers, but also laws relating to im- 
ports. We had a general principle back of us, but we had to keep 
whacking off clauses so that it would not be thrown into the wrong 
committee. 

If you were fortunate enough to secure a Senate hearing for your 
bill the chairman of your committee appointed a sub-committee of 
about three; in the House, the entire committee might attend the 
hearing. A day was set and you began preparing your ammunition ; 
the opposition was allowed an equal amount of time to the second. 
After the hearing a vote was taken. If they were against it, they 
killed it then and there; if they recommended it, it came up before 
the full committee and, if then approved, went to the Senate or House 
for debate on the floor. 

To the frantic, worried, harassed, driven Congressmen of 193 1 
the announcement of a birth control bill was like a message from 
Mars, only less interesting and more remote. \The mind of each 
Senator resembled a telephone switchboard with his wary secretary 
as the operator. All the wires were tied up with foreign debts, un- 
employment relief, reparations, moratoriums, sales taxes, prohibi- 
tion, budgets and bonuses, war in Manchuria, peace conferences, dis- 
armament, and the tariff — issues of vital concern to themselves for 
which they needed every vote; and their principal endeavor was not 
to cause conflict or get themselves disliked. What chance had we to 
plug in? 



SENATORS, BE NOT AFFRIGHTED 419 

When the vigilant secretary found we were not direct constituents, 
we were told the Senator was busy — in conference, in committee, 
meeting an arriving delegation. Would we come back later, tomor- 
row, next week ? Always we came back promptly and on the dot. For 
months it was almost impossible to see any of them. Often as many 
as forty calls were made, and if we succeeded in getting two inter- 
views, we considered that a good day's work. When finally we did 
reach them, few of the younger, still fewer of the older, Senators 
knew what we were talking about. When we were able to make this 
clear, young and old alike, just as in the state legislatures, were 
full of fears — fear of prejudices, fear of cloakroom joshings, mainly 
fear of Catholic opposition. 

Though Senator Norris had approved the repeal bill, he believed 
that ours had a better chance of passing because antagonism to the 
former was even greater than in 1926. He himself had Muscle Shoals 
and the Lame Duck Amendment on his hands and several more pet 
projects to boot, and suggested we get somebody to introduce the 
bill who would not be up for re-election. Our choice fell on Senator 
Frederick Huntington Gillett of Massachusetts, for years Speaker of 
the House, and now about to retire. He was a gentleman born, gray- 
haired, typically New England, without children or any particular 
philosophy regarding birth control. Our Southern helpers, notably 
Mrs. J. B. Vandeveer, were persistent and determined. They would 
not be put off with polite, routine dismissals, but asked point-blank, 
"Will you introduce this bill for us?" Senator Gillett, recognizing 
their earnestness, agreed. But we heard no more of it. 

When I returned at the next session of the same Congress some- 
one remarked, "Aren't you lucky to have had your bill introduced ?" 

"What?" I stared with wide-open eyes. 

"Yes, Senator Gillett remembered it a few days before the session 
closed." 

I called on him at once. "Where's our bill gone?" 

It had gone nowhere. "We'll just send it around to the Judiciary 
Committee," said the Senator. "Norris is Chairman and he's friendly. 
He'll pick out a good sub-committee for you." 

We gathered our witnesses together the night before the hearing, 
which was to be February 13th, and asked, "What do you want to 



420 MARGARET SANGER 

say? How long do you want in which to say it?" We had eight peo- 
ple to testify in the space of two hours; moments had to be care- 
fully parceled out to each. We were permitted to deduct ten from 
our allotment the first day to be used the following one for a rebut- 
tal. 

William E. Borah of Idaho and Sam G. Bratton of New Mexico 
had been assigned to us with Senator Gillett, but Borah did not ap- 
pear. The audience, mostly women, crowded the committee room, 
imposing with marble pillars, glossy mahogany, gleaming windows. 

Dr. John Whitridge Williams, obstetrician in chief of Johns Hop- 
kins, summed up the medical evidence for birth control. "A doctor 
who has this information (prevention of conception) and does not 
give it cannot help feeling he is taking a responsibility for the lives 
and welfare of large numbers of people." The Reverend Charles 
Francis Potter, founder of the Humanist Society of New York, dis- 
cussed the moral phase. "The bird of war is not the eagle but the 
stork." Professor Roswell H. Johnson, then at the University of 
Pittsburgh, stressed eugenics. "Most intelligent, well-informed peo- 
ple .. . are so determined in this (spacing children) that no laws 
yet devised succeed in forcing a natural family, which is about 
eighteen children, upon them." Rabbi Sidney Goldstein dealt with 
religious aspects. "The population is not made up of those who are 
born but is made up of those who survive." Professor of Sociology 
Henry Pratt Fairchild spoke from the economic point of view. "We 
human individuals cannot break laws of nature. We can, however, 
choose which of her laws we see fit to obey." Mrs. Douglas Moffatt 
announced that the twenty-seven hundred members of the New York 
City Junior League were overwhelmingly in favor of the bill. 

The next morning the opposition began by trying to prove that 
we who advocated birth control, a Russian innovation, were seeking 
to pull down motherhood and the family as had been done in Russia. 
The Honorable Mary T. Norton, Representative from New Jersey, 
made the astounding assertion that the happiest family was the big 
one, and that a large percentage of the great men and women of this 
country were born poor ; this was a blessing since it fired them with 
ambition. And she mentioned Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday had 
been but two days before. I was particularly outraged by hearing 



SENATORS, BE NOT AFFRIGHTED 42 1 

statements from other witnesses that the American Federation of 
Labor was against us, that the American Medical Association was an- 
tagonistic, and that the Methodist and other churches were going to 
help defeat our bill. Speaker after speaker representing Catholic or- 
ganizations repeatedly hurled such dramatic tirades as, "I ask you, 
gentlemen, in the name of the twenty million Catholic citizens of the 
country, to whose deep religious convictions these vices are abhor- 
rent, and of all those to whom the virtue of a mother or a daughter 
is sacred, to report unfavorably on this diabolical and damnable bill !" 

It was difficult to gauge the impression that was being made ; you 
could only sense that the response was one of feeling. These dog- 
matists, harking back to the Dark Ages, summoned to their aid the 
same arguments that had been used to hinder every advance in our 
civilization — that it was against nature, against God, against the 
Bible, against the country's best interests, and against morality. Even 
though you proved your case by statistics and reason and every 
known device of the human mind, the opponents parroted the line of 
attack over and over again ; in the end you realized that the appeal to 
intelligence was futile. 

On occasions like this the inward fury that possessed me warmed 
from coldness to white heat; it did not produce oratory, but it en- 
abled me to move others. The way to meet the opposition was to keep 
emotions in hand and, at the same time, without stumbling or fum- 
bling, to let them go. Every word I said was calculated and thought 
through, Hot in advance, but as it came along. I did not react this way 
often, but I did that day. 

When my ten minutes for rebuttal came, I knew that emotional 
speed was required. Nevertheless, I first knocked down their false 
assertions : that the birth control movement had originated in this 
country during 19 14, long before anyone had ever heard of Bolshe- 
vism; that the objections of the American Federation of Labor had 
referred to the repeal bill of 1925, quite different from the doctors' 
bill now under discussion; that the American Medical Association 
had taken no stand, but two of its most important branches, the 
Neurological and Woman's Medical, had gone on record in our fa- 
vor; that Dr. C. I. Wilson of the Methodist Board had denied his 
church was opposed, and, in fact, its ministers had worked unofficially 



422 MARGARET SANGER 

for us. "When someone says that the happiest families are the larg- 
est ones, and that the world's great leaders have been of large fam- 
ilies, I would like to call to your attention that the great leader of 
Christianity, Jesus Christ himself, was said to be an only child." 
Here the Catholics crossed themselves and muttered, 'Blasphemy !' 

"These opponents have had the laws with them, the wealth, the 
press, and yet they have come today to say they are afraid of the 
morals of their people if they have knowledge, if they do not con- 
tinue to be kept in fear and ignorance. Then I say their moral teach- 
ings are not very deep. Mr. Chairman, we say that we want children 
conceived in love, born of parents' conscious desire, and born into 
the world with sound bodies and sound minds." 

The two Senators sat there in silence. The bill was killed, due to 
the adverse vote of Senator Borah — who had not attended the hear- 
ings. 

The next year, 1932, Senator Gillett was gone and a substitute had 
to be found. Believing the first woman Senator would be on the side 
of her sex, we asked Mrs. Hattie Caraway to introduce the bill. She 
said she herself was interested in the subject, but her secretary would 
not let her touch it. 

Ordinarily Congressmen paid little attention to abstract argu- 
ments, logic, or the humanitarian needs of outsiders. But they could 
be reached through their constituents. One way of doing this was to 
get women "back home" to help themselves directly by writing let- 
ters. This required money. We sought it from a foundation which 
donated ten thousand dollars earmarked for this special purpose. 
To the still continuing stream of letters from mothers, requesting 
as always contraceptive advice, my reply went, "I would gladly give 
you the information you ask for if the law permitted. Your Con- 
gressman now has the opportunity to vote on this bill. Send him a 
letter telling how many children you have living, how many babies 
dead, how many abortions, what wages your husband receives, every- 
thing you have told me," and I enclosed an envelope, stamped and 
addressed to their respective Congressmen. 

While walking one day through the tunnel which connected the 
House with the Senate, I stopped to ask a man my direction. He 
said, "I'm going your way. Come along and I'll show you." 



SENATORS, BE NOT AFFRIGHTED 423 

We fell into conversation. He informed me he was a Senator, and 
asked what I was doing. 

"I'm working on the birth control bill." 

"That's funny. I've just had a letter from a woman five miles 
from where I've lived most of my life. Listen to this." 

And he took it out of his pocket and read the history of the 
woman's abortions and operations. "I've never heard anything quite 
so awful, and at the bottom she says, 'You can help me by getting 
this law changed, and Mrs. Sanger, who has the information, will 
send it to me if you get the law changed.' " 

These letters brought fine results. Through them Senator Henry 
D. Hatfield of West Virginia was persuaded to introduce the bill. 
At the hearing he described how as physician and surgeon and gov- 
ernor of his state he had seen the free mating of the unfit, and had 
forced through a sterilization law. We produced our usual array of 
experts, and the opposition produced Dr. Howard Atwood Kelly, a 
famous gynecologist in his day at Johns Hopkins, but now Professor 
Emeritus and very old, who rambled discursively on morals ; his was 
a state of mind if not of reason. Dr. John A. Ryan, a member of the 
National Catholic Welfare Conference, chose economics for his dis- 
cussion. Neither spoke on his own subject, but selected something on 
which he was not an authority. 

The bill was killed in committee, and the one introduced by Rep- 
resentative Frank Hancock of North Carolina in the House got into 
the wrong committee so nothing happened. 

Before you had seen it, the Congress of the United States loomed 
impressively in your consciousness; you had a feeling, "This is the 
greatest country in the world, this is its Government, I helped to send 
these men here." Then you watched Congress at work, listened to it, 
and were disillusioned. A few years of sitting in the gallery and look- 
ing down gave you less respect for the quality of our representatives, 
less faith in legislative action, and you wondered whether those who 
had already abandoned hope of obtaining relief in this way and re- 
sorted to direct action had not, perhaps, the right idea. 

The same arguments went on from year to year. A certain amount 
of publicity was secured, a certain number were educated. Some of 
our followers, in face of the evidence to the contrary, still were con- 



424 MARGARET SANGER 

fident that if the Catholics understood our bill they would not ob- 
struct it. They said Representative Arthur D. Healey of Massachu- 
setts, a member of the Judiciary Committee, although a Catholic 
was so liberal that if he could once be made to see the reasons back 
of it he would cease being openly hostile, and it might even get out 
of committee. Accordingly, I went to his office; we talked at length, 
and again got nowhere. As I was leaving this father of four said, 
in order to explain himself, "You see, Mrs. Sanger, I'm just one of 
those unusual men who are very fond of children." I was inwardly 
convulsed at the thought that he considered himself unusual and 
that we were all a lot of Herods trying to do away with babies. 

At first it seemed that I was to have greater success as the result 
of my interview with Dr. Joseph J. Mundell, Professor of Obstetrics 
at Georgetown University, who advised the Catholic Welfare Con- 
ference on all their medical legislation. In a private session I conceded 
some things in the bill ; Dr. Mundell gave up certain others. The com- 
promise apparently suited everybody. 

In 1934 identical bills were introduced in Senate and House, the 
latter by Representative Walter M. Pierce, Democrat, who as Gov- 
ernor of Oregon had burned his political bridges by vetoing a bill 
which permitted parochial schools. Since he had nothing to lose, he 
did not have to play politics. 

Hatton W. Summers of Texas was chairman of the hearing. Our 
side led off, again specialists in each line covering the vital points. 
Rabbi Edward L. Israel of Baltimore made an impassioned plea. 
"And I say, gentlemen, if this thing we are now advocating is not 
morally right, let us stop being hypocrites and, in its place, put a law 
on our statute books that will drive contraceptive devices out of 
your homes and mine." 

Here John C. Lehr of Michigan, sitting back in his chair with 
thumbs hitched in his suspenders, declared pompously, "As a mem- 
ber of this Committee I want to go on record there have never been 
any contraceptives used in my home. I have six children, too." 

Malcolm C. Tarver of Georgia interrupted, "You don't mean any 
member of Congress has used anything of that kind, do you?" His 
surprise was obviously genuine. 



SENATORS, BE NOT AFFRIGHTED 425 

The proponents of our bill, even elderly women, had stood while 
delivering their testimony. But when Father Charles E. Coughlin 
entered, cheeks very pink over his black collar, a chair was placed 
for him, because as a representative of the Church he would not 
stand before a representative body of the State. He began talking 
at random, "I have not heard one word of the testimony these ladies 
and gentlemen have produced, and my remarks are not addressed to 
them now, because I can easily handle them over the radio Sunday 
after Sunday. . . . You, gentlemen, you are married men, all of 
you, and you know more about it than I will ever know." Here he 
arched his eyebrows into a leer. "The Chairman, I understand, is a 
bachelor like myself. . . . We know how these contraceptives are 
bootlegged in the corner drug stores surrounding our high schools. 
Why are they around the high schools ? To teach them how to forni- 
cate and not get caught. All this bill means is 'How to commit adul- 
tery and not gtt caught.' " 

Some of our sympathizers walked out of the room. Two Con- 
gressmen left the table. But we were a polite, well-behaved group 
that shrank from scenes, and, though furious and indignant, we 
allowed him to conclude his half-hour of grossness. 

I could hardly believe my ears when Dr. Mundell, who shortly be- 
fore had helped us formulate a bill which he said was satisfactory 
to him, rose and deliberately betrayed us by stating there was no need 
for legislation whatsoever, because a recent scientific work — by which 
he meant Rhythm — had shown that fertility in women could be reck- 
oned with almost mathematical precision. 

In the rebuttal Dr. Prentiss Willson testified that the theory of 
the cycle of sterility had no medical standing. Then came my turn. I 
had in my pocket a copy of Rhythm, and quoted from it. Under the 
heading of procreation it asked whether married people were obliged 
to bring into the world all the children they could, and then made 
answer : 

Far from being an obligation, such a course may be utterly inde- 
fensible. Broadly speaking, married couples have not the right to 
bring into the world children whom they are unable to support, for 
they would thereby inflict a grievous damage upon society. 



426 MARGARET SANGER 

I told the committee that apparently the only distinction in the pros 
and cons of the birth control question was that the method we ad- 
vocated was a scientific one under the supervision of doctors; that 
of the Catholics had not been proved scientifically and was open to 
any boy or girl who could read the English language. 

Nevertheless, the bill again died in committee. 

The Senate hearings on the bill, introduced by our old friend 
Daniel O. Hastings of Delaware, did not come until March. We pre- 
sented our advocates, among them a miner's wife from West Vir- 
ginia, the native state of two members of the committee, Hatfield 
and Nealy. She was a perfect illustration of the type which most 
needed birth control. When she had finished a Catholic woman asked 
her, "Which of your nine children would you rather see dead?" 

"Oh, I don't want to see any of them dead. I love them all; but 
I don't love those I haven't had." 

Her reply was just right ; it could not have been better. 

Vito Silecchia, my former coal and ice vendor from Fourteenth 
Street, also made his way to Washington and told his simple story. 
His wife had come to me when pregnant with her fourth child, and 
I had said I could do nothing for her until she had had her baby. 
Now, many years afterwards, she had no more than the four. Vito 
reasoned his case as a man, "I am a Catholic myself. The Catholics 
say we should have much children. I say different. I say it is not 
good to have too many children. You can't take care of them." He 
ended by describing the mother of six who lived next door to him. "I 
told her, 'I will take you to a place. It is a wonderful place.' She does 
not know the English language. Therefore, she has never come up to 
see Mrs. Sanger, but she will — but she will !" 

For the first time the Senate sub-committee reported out the bill 
and it was put on the unanimous consent calendar. The last day of 
the session came, June 13th. Over two hundred were ahead of it, 
but there was always hope. One after another they were hurried 
through and then, miracle of miracles, ours passed with no voice 
raised against it. The next one came up, was also converted into 
law, another up for discussion, tabled. Twenty minutes went by. 
Suddenly Senator Pat McCarran from Reno, Nevada, famous di- 
vorce lawyer though an outstanding Catholic, came rushing in from 



SENATORS, BE NOT AFFRIGHTED 427 

the cloak room and asked for unanimous consent to recall our bill. 
As a matter of senatorial courtesy Senator Hastings granted his re- 
quest; had he not done so Senator McCarran would have objected 
to every bill he introduced thereafter. It was summarily referred 
back to the committee and there died. 

In 1935 we took the fatal step of having it voted on early in the 
session and it was promptly killed. The whole year's labor was lost. 
The following winter, when I was in India, Percy Gassaway of Ok- 
lahoma introduced a bill in the House, Royal S. Copeland of New 
York, in the Senate, by request ; neither one reached a hearing. 

Another line of attack on the Comstock law was to try for a 
liberal interpretation through the courts. Among the products shown 
at the Zurich Conference in 1930 had been a Japanese pessary. Pur- 
suing, the clinic policy of testing every new contraceptive that ap- 
peared, I ordered some of these from a Tokyo physician. When noti- 
fied by the Customs that they had been barred entrance and destroyed, 
we sent for another shipment addressed to Dr. Stone in the hope 
that it would then be delivered to a physician. But this also was re- 
fused, and accordingly we brought suit in her name. 

After pending two years the case finally came up for trial before 
Judge Grover Moscowitz of the Federal District Court of Southern 
New York. Morris Ernst conducted our claim brilliantly, and Jan- 
uary 6, 1936, Judge Moscowitz decided in our favor — the wording 
of the statute seemed to forbid the importation of any article for 
preventing conception, but he believed that the statute should be 
construed more reasonably. The Government at once appealed and 
the case was argued in the Circuit Court of Appeals before Judges 
Augustus N. Hand, Learned Hand, and Thomas Swan, whose unani- 
mous decisions were rarely reversed in the Supreme Court. 

In the fall of 1936, while I was in Washington getting the Fed- 
eral bill started again in advance of Congress' meeting, news came 
that the three judges had upheld the Moscowitz decision and had 
added that a doctor was entitled not only to bring articles into this 
country but, more important, to send them through the mails, and, 
finally, to use them for the patient's general well-being — which, for 
twenty years, had been the object of my earnest endeavor. 

The Government still had the right to appeal inside of ninety 



428 MARGARET SANGER 

days. Therefore, I was not unduly jubilant. We had had so many 
seeming victories that melted away afterwards. 

But long before the period of grace had expired, Attorney General 
Cummings announced to the press that the Government would ac- 
cept the decision as law, and, with commendable consistency, the 
Secretary of the Treasury sent word to the Customs at once that 
our shipments should be admitted. It is really a relief to be able to 
say something good about the Government. 

In the face of the court decision there was little point at this time 
in continuing the Federal campaign. The money for closing it up 
came through a most unexpected and affecting channel. About a 
year after I had seen Viola Kaufman at the California Conference 
in 1 93 1, I received a letter from her asking me please to write out 
the form in which I would like any money left so that she could 
designate it in her will. I took her clear, concise note to my attorney 
who suggested that, since organizations were many and might go out 
of existence at any moment, it would be wiser to have the bequest in 
my name to be dispensed for any purpose within the movement I saw 
fit. I answered her to this effect and she replied, "I am now passing 
over to you in my will whatever I possess." 

I considered that the only courteous thing to do was to have Anna 
Lifshiz, who was living in Los Angeles, go to see Miss Kaufman. 
The address was in the Mexican district, in the poorest, most dilapi- 
dated, run-down section. In patched clothes she came to the door of 
her house, in which there was hardly any furniture. She was formal 
and rather cold. 

Anna merely explained the reason for her call was that she knew 
Miss Kaufman as one of our subscribers. She wrote me, "That poor 
creature hasn't money enough to keep body and soul together." 

Two years went by. I was in Washington, preparing to start for 
Boston for a meeting when a messenger boy delivered a telegram 
from the director of the General Hospital at Memphis, Tennessee, 
requesting me to come at once; Viola Kaufman was dangerously ill 
with pneumonia and asking for me. I looked up trains; it would take 
forty-eight hours, and so I put in a long-distance call to the director, 
who told me she had died during the night. 

"What was she doing in Memphis?" 






SENATORS, BE NOT AFFRIGHTED 429 

"We don't know. The Salvation Army brought her in to us. She 
has only a little cash tied up in a handkerchief. We can't do anything 
without you because you're the beneficiary." 

The undertaker also wanted an order from me, and, since her 
executor, an officer of a bank in Los Angeles, had gone on a fishing 
trip, I arranged the details for her cremation. She had ordered that 
her remains be sent to me and when they arrived the clinic staff came 
tip to Willow Lake and we held a little memorial service of gratitude 
and respect, spreading the ashes over the rock garden. 

To everybody's astonishment Viola Kaufman had about thirty 
thousand dollars in Los Angeles realty. But it took a year and a 
half to settle the estate and by this time everything was at the low- 
est ebb of the depression. We received approximately twelve thou- 
sand dollars. I have never looked at the obituaries for the last twenty 
years without hoping to read that someone has willed a million dol- 
lars for birth control, but the only legacy ever bequeathed us was 
that saved from the meager earnings of this schoolteacher, Viola 
Kaufman, who herself lived in poverty. 

With this money we wrote finis to the Federal legislation. Of the 
old organization all that was left in Washington was a secretary to 
read the Congressional Record daily — a watchdog to report any bills 
proposed which would make it necessary for us to jump into action 
to combat them. 

"Six years of this work had cost one hundred and fifty thousand 
dollars. It had also meant strain arid worry beyond anything I had 
ever attempted — never being able to detach myself from it whether 
Congress was in session or not, always on the alert to discover any 
new person elected who might be favorably disposed. Now and again 
it had been discouraging ; you could exert yourself to the utmost with 
pleasure if it were a matter of convincing a person and watching his 
mind being pried open, but here, over and over again, you saw this 
• same conviction, yet he reverted to the same fears and refrained from 
doing anything. 

However, the process of enlightening legislators had also unclosed 
the eyes of an enormous number of organizations. First to approve 
publicly had been the National Council of Jewish Women. Even- 
tually more than a thousand clubs — civic, political, religious, and so- 






430 MARGARET SANGER 

cial, including the General Federation of Women's Clubs, the 
Y.W.C.A., local Junior Leagues — in all representing between twelve 
and thirteen million members — had given their endorsement. And 
more important than anything else, the public had been educated 
persistently, consistently away from casual and precarious contra- 
ceptive advice into the qualified hands of the medical profession. 

Dr. Dickinson had been appearing regularly^ at American Medical 
Association meetings, keeping the question constantly alive. But not 
until Dr. Prentiss Willson had formed a national body of doctors 
in 1935 to carry on legislative work had there been any action. One 
had stirred up; the other organized. 

I was at Willow Lake one June morning of 1937 when I saw 
spread across the newspaper in double column the glad tidings : the 
Committee on Contraception of the American Medical^ Association 
had informed the convention that physicians had the legal right to 
give contraceptives, and it recommended that standards be investi- 
gated and technique be taught in medical schools. 

In my excitement I actually fell downstairs. To me this was really 
a greater victory than the Moscowitz decision. Here was the cul- 
mination of unremitting labor ever since my return from Europe in 
191 5, the gratification of seeing a dream come true. 

These specific achievements are significant because they open the 
way to a broader field of attainment and to research which can im- 
measurably improve methods now known, making possible the spread 
of birth control into the forlorn, overpopulated places of the earth, 
and permitting science eventually to determine the potentialities of 
a posterity conceived and born of conscious love. 



Chapter Thirty-five 



A PAST WHICH IS GONE FOREVER 



PARENTHOOD remains unquestionably the most serious of all 
human relationships, the most far-reaching in its power for 
good or for evil, and withal the most delicately complex. I always 
tried to secure my sons' confidence by being honest with them, treat- 
ing them as though they had intelligence, and expecting them to use 
it. For the sake of companionship it was essential to be honest, no 
matter what the cost. Fortunately, the younger generation is not 
crumpled up when sharply confronted with the truth. They have cut 
hrough the regard to their feelings until they can say extraordinarily 
lunt things to each other and yet not be hurt. And with this they 
lave invented a new language ; they can "take it." 

Many times I could have forced my opinion on the boys and saved 
hem perhaps some bitter disappointments — "Let me do it. I'll man- 
ige all this. Let me know when you need anything." But, instead, I 
nerely stated my attitude and said, "Here are the two alternatives. 
You want this; I think the other is better. Neither of us can tell 
which is right. If you choose your own way I'll help you as long as 
you do it well, providing you stop as soon as you know it is wrong 
and go back and pick up the other. If experience teaches you a greater 
wisdom, you can call it square." 

At Peddie Institute, Stuart was paying more attention to sports 

I - han studies. It was easy for him to be an athlete. But he also had a 
ogical mind and a quick ability for co-ordinating hand and brain. 
431 



432 MARGARET SANGER 

When he was ready for college he entered Sheffield Scientific School 
of Yale University. His imagination was soon captured by archae- 
ology and medicine, but his course was already set. 

Meanwhile Grant, who had been inclined to hero-worship his 
older brother, had also gone to Peddie. His athletics left little op- 
portunity for bringing out his artistic talents, and he agreed to take 
his last two years at Westminster School in Simsbury, Connecticut, 
where he was encouraged to develop along his own lines. In his 
sophomore year at Princeton, he still had no idea of what he wanted 
to do with his life. Although he had a leaning towards diplomacy, 
which would include training in law, I explained to him that, since 
the family had no political influence, it might lead to being a small 
politician. 

And so I made out a list of as many occupations known to man as 
I could think of, and sent them to him, telling him to mark off with 
a blue pencil those which he was perfectly sure did not appeal to him, 
and check with red those for which he felt some predilection. Out 
immediately went piano-mover, waiter, floorwalker, bank manager, 
bookkeeper, and some fifty others. 

Six months later, I returned him the red-checked list for further 
perusal. Now his preferences were much more definite. Research, 
journalism, editorial work, diplomacy were again red, but almost 
everything else marked headed him for a scientific career. 

The decision made, Grant began his pre-medical course. 

After Stuart graduated from Yale he moved downtown to Wall 
Street and continued in a broker's office all during the depression. 
But, in this money making atmosphere, his attitude was changing. 
He had concluded that serving humanity was a higher fulfillment 
than profiting at humanity's expense, and medicine seemed the career 
which he also liked best. Having found out, he had the courage to 
start back at the beginning to accomplish it. We made a compact for 
him to go as far as he could and test whether his interest kept up 
First he had to acquire sufficient chemistry and biology, going to 
Columbia University in the daytime for the former, to New York 
University in the evening for the latter, preparing his lessons unti 
three in the morning. 



A PAST WHICH IS GONE FOREVER 433 

The next year he passed his entrance examinations. 

Following the legislative near-victory in the winter of 1934, I 
resolved to go to Russia to see for myself what was happening in 
the greatest social experiment of our age. With keen anticipation I 
ooked forward to discovering whether the Marxian philosophy, 
dramatized and realized and based on an economic ideology, did not 
lave to accept some of the philosophy of Malthus. 

Grant, then about to enter his final year at Cornell Medical School, 
was eager to investigate the progress of medicine in the Soviet Union, 
and made up his mind to come along. I was taking also my secretary, 
Florence Rose, efficient, competent in any capacity, whether field or- 
ganizing or in the office. Though but recently enlisted in the move- 
ment, she had come more with the attitude of the early days, not for 
what she could get out of it, but for what she could give to its 
furtherance. Her talents and enthusiasm, when added to her cheerful- 
ness, made her a rare combination; always gleeful and bubbling with 
: un, she carried out nearly everything in that spirit. 

Mrs. Ethel Clyde, an officer of the Federal legislative organiza- 
tion, was to be the fourth of our little group within a large group. 
When zeal for the "new civilization" in Russia had been at its height 
she had relinquished her expensive Park Avenue apartment for a 
smaller one on a side street, and contributed the difference in rent to 
sundry leftist causes and birth control. 

At the last moment it seemed we might not be able to go. For 
ome years Stuart had had a bad sinus condition, and hardly had he 
matriculated at Cornell in the fall of 1933 when he had been struck 
3y a squash racket, fracturing the bone over his eye. That winter 
he had been operated on nine times. A week before I was due to sail 
is doctor advised that he have an exploratory operation. I rushed up 
rom Washington, where the legislative work for that session was 
just being wound up, and would have abandoned the Russian ex- 
edition had not the operation apparently been entirely successful. 
Ituart insisted that I go. Since he was in no danger I continued with 
ny plans. 

It was not feasible to travel in Russia except in a party under 
fficial guidance. Three people I knew who had gone by themselves 



434 MARGARET SANGER 

described how train after train had passed them, boat after boat had 
steamed down the Volga with no accommodations available. There- 
fore, we chose the non-partisan Second Russian Seminar. 

Shortly prior to leaving I spent an evening with Maurice Hindus, 
Will Durant, John Kingsbury, and Drs. Hannah and Abraham Stone, 
all of whom had been to Russia the previous year. Maurice Hindus 
had returned impersonal and still unprejudiced, Will Durant utterly 
antagonistic, John Kingsbury full of fervor, and both Stones warmly 
disposed. They had all been in Moscow, practically at the same time, 
for approximately the same number of days, and all had received 
utterly dissimilar impressions. Even pictures that Will Durant had 
taken were not the same as those of John Kingsbury or Dr. Stone, 
snapped from almost identical places, thus showing me how wide 
might be the variety of responses, depending on the individual bias. 

I expected to keep my eyes open, to think independently, to ask 
questions, and compare. I was going to use as much sanity and fair- 
ness as I possessed, and not be swept emotionally into any current 
of opinion. 

Billy Barber was the manager of the Seminar, and I did not envy 
him his job. There were many complaints and stupid remarks and 
much faultfinding. Most of the party were going merely to be able 
to say those things were true which they had previously said were 
true. I asked one woman who went on every sight-seeing expedi- 
tion but never got out of the bus, "Why did you come ?" 

"Oh, just to wipe Russia off my list." 

Edward Alsworth Ross was among the leaders. He was the only 
person who had been there under the former regime some twenty 
years earlier, and had an authoritative basis of contrast between th 
old and the new ; we all rather sat at his feet. He was a typical pro- 
fessor, wore enormously high, stiff collars, played checkers with 
anybody who would indulge him, and was upset when he failed tc 
win. His personality was impressive, literally so because wherever 
you looked you spied him. One of the funniest sights was to see this 
Nordic giant, six feet four, walking with short dark Florence Rose 
five feet two, each jollying the other. 

We scooted through England across to Copenhagen, about whicl 
I recall very little. I was always trying to learn what advance th( 



A PAST WHICH IS GONE FOREVER 435 

women's movement had made, but somebody was always trying to 
tell me how marvelous the city was. Remembering Ellen Key, I 
reached Scandinavia with great hopes for Feminism. But the women 
who were considered the most intelligent were complacently resting 
on their laurels. The older ones still reigned supreme and believed 
that, because they had won their battles of twenty-five years ago, 
there was nothing left to fight for. The younger group found it hard 
to rise above the inertia of this overwhelming prestige. Since popu- 
lation was not a problem in Scandinavia, they were interested chiefly 
in eugenics, and had almost forgotten the aspect of individual suf- 
fering. 

At Oslo a number of us went on pilgrimage to the grave of Ibsen. 
As I stood there in silent tribute I had the feeling he had understood 
women and the ties they had been loosening. To my mind Nora never 
went back to the "doll's house" ; her evolution was too complete. Or, 
if she did return, she entered by another door. 

Mr. Barber had arranged to feed his hundred and six charges at 
the last Finnish railroad station. There was a particular exhilaration 
about the prospect of that meal, because it was to be our final one 
before crossing into "famine-stricken" Russia. We arrived at ten in 
the morning, all of us hungry. As we filed into the station our eyes 
met the most gorgeous panorama — long tables beautifully laid out 
with delicious meats, fish, breads, compotes. 

While we paused, debating which of these delicacies to taste first, 
there came a stampede of fifty other Americans, a tourist group led 
by Sherwood Eddy. Never had I seen such an exhibition. The men, 
unshaven, hatless, coatless, pushed and shoved around, in front of, 
and almost on top of the tables. The best we could do was find com- 
fortable seats from which we could have a good view of the riot. 
The meal prepared by the railroad with such courtesy for our party 
was demolished by another. 

Barber and Eddy eventually discovered it was all a mistake. The 
train carrying the Eddy-ites had failed to stop at the town where 
their repast had been awaiting them, and naturally they supposed 
this breakfast was theirs. 

At Leningrad we were met by buses and driven through streets 
that swarmed with imperturbable, peasant-like people. The upper 



436 MARGARET SANGER 

parts of their Mongolian-shaped heads all looked exactly the same. I 
noticed how immaculate they were. Faces, necks, hands, were white 
as white and displayed a cleanliness simply marvelous when you took 
into consideration the difficulty of securing soap and water. Very few 
were old; many were children apparently between the ages of two 
to twelve. But in the expressions of all I glimpsed a sadness. 

The former capital was depressing and down at heels, shabby and 
in need of painting. Yet it was beyond comparison in its spacious dig- 
nity; the architectural design of the houses could not be hidden. My 
high-ceilinged room at the Astoria was luxurious with alcove bed, 
bath room, and large marble tub, which, although cracked and 
spotted with rust, nevertheless evidenced the days of splendor when 
the hotel had been frequented by the aristocracy of the Old Regime. 

From my window I could see the cobbled square. It was eight 
o'clock and the city was awakening. I watched the passing show: 
heavy wagons were drawn by a single and often most decrepit horse 
with what seemed a dark brown rainbow, arched and graceful, over 
his neck; queues formed in front of little stands that served rations 
of beer or bottled soda water; some women, the varying colors in 
their shawls making bright splotches, swept the car tracks with birch 
switches or pushed empty carts on their way to market, others car- 
ried hods of cement up the ladders to the masons on the new build- 
ings being erected everywhere. Usually the men were doing the 
skilled work, and women, hardy and robust, with strong legs, bare 
feet, sunburned faces, were kept at the laborious, monotonous, physi- 
cal labor until such time as they could qualify as expert artisans. 

The Communists' apartments were much better, lighter, airier, 
cleaner, more modern than those for non-party members. When we 
asked why, in an equalitarian state, one section should be thus privi- 
leged, we were answered, "It was they who made all this possible 
Why should they not have the best? What you bourgeois give to 
your capitalists, we give to our Communists." 

We asked Tanya, our guide, if she were a Communist, and sh 
replied, "Oh, no. That's too hard." Ordinary citizens might be ex 
cused for a mistake or even a crime, but party members could hav 
no human frailties. They were exiled or perhaps shot for cheating 
stealing, deceiving, exploiting, taking money under false pretenses 



A PAST WHICH IS GONE FOREVER 437 

or many things which average people could do and be punished with 
fines alone. 

Although the cost of the trip itself was relatively low, whatever 
we bought in Russia was excessively high owing to the peculiar 
situation of the ruble. In the first place, there was no ruble ; it existed 
only in theory. Second, every foreigner was supposed to deal ex- 
clusively with the Torgsin stores through which the Government had 
cleverly contrived to come by a hoard of foreign currency by charg- 
ing seventy-eight cents in our money for each ruble instead of its 
actual value of five cents. For example, the price of a stamp on a letter 
to the United States, which was two and a half rubles, amounted to 
two dollars. 

Mrs. Clyde, who leaned sympathetically towards Communism, 
said to one of our young men, "Let me get you a little present." 

"Not here," he said. "It'll be too expensive." 

"Oh, yes," she insisted. "What would you like?" 

"Well — a bar of almond chocolate, then." 

She had to pay ten American dollars for that ten-cent bar of 
chocolate. Her Communism melted slightly. 

Ultimately, we solved the ruble problem. One morning a boy who 
had been loitering around the Astoria asked Grant, "Would you 
like me to take you through the city?" 

Grant prudently inquired, "How much?" It appeared that the 
boy merely desired an opportunity to perfect his English ; he had plenty 
of rubles, which he was glad to dispose of at the rate of fifty for a 
dollar. Russians could obtain none but the cheapest commodities on 
their tickets; if they wanted luxuries such as good shirts, leather or 
rubber boots, and other articles sold only at Torgsin, they were obliged 
to surrender some treasured gold piece or use foreign money. 

With an ample supply of rubles I sent long, elaborate cables to 
Stuart to cheer him up. He must have thought an excessive ma- 
ternal solicitude was getting the better of my economic judgment. 
But, as a matter of fact, one of twenty words was costing me less 
;han twenty-five cents. 

Dr. Nadina Kavanoky, who had been interested in birth control 
in the United States, had given me a letter to her father, Dr. Rein- 
stein, once a dentist in Rochester, New York, now in Stalin's close 



438 MARGARET SANGER 

confidence. He came to see me about eleven-thirty one night, the 
Russian calling hour, and we talked until three in the morning. When 
he wanted to know my "impressions of Russia," I said promptly, 
"It seems to me your policy of overcharging us is a mistake ; for the 
sake of a few dollars you are creating ill will, just as the French 
have done. In our own Seminar we have twenty librarians and per- 
haps double that number of schoolteachers and students, many of 
whom have gone without other vacations to come here. They have a 
unique opportunity to influence people; everybody will ask them 
when they get back, 'Did you like Russia?' You are trying to build 
up a favorable public opinion abroad, and these people are the best 
mediums for that purpose. If they are pleased they will fight for you 
and break down prejudice." 

But he was not convinced, and, evoking the specter of the Tsarist 
debt to America, he replied, "We'll bleed you, we'll milk you, we'll 
get every dollar out of you we can. America demands her pound of 
flesh and this is how we'll pay you." 

The occasions for receiving "pleasant impressions" were offered 
by vigorous tours to points of interest. We were given a choice of 
hard buses or harder ones, all, in my experience, springless and clat- 
tering noisily over the cobble-paved streets. After a few bumps we 
usually hit the roof and came down with headaches. Our poor little 
guides had to screech with full lung power to be heard over the in- 
cessant rattling. 

One morning when driving back from sight-seeing, the motor 
gasped and collapsed on a slight hill. Passengers volunteered help- 
ful suggestions — "Put it in low. Put it in neutral. Push this. Pull that." 

The driver moved gears forward and backward and then looked 
around at us in perplexity, "I did, but it won't work." We waited 
and waited and waited and waited. Somebody ran a mile to telephone 
that we were stranded and needed another bus. Meanwhile, everything 
we wanted to see was closing, and we had already learned that what- 
ever you missed in Russia was always the most worth while. In fact, 
it seemed they had visiting hours timed to end five minutes before 
you got there. Several other buses came along and stopped. Their 
drivers got out, poked their heads under the hood, began taking 
things apart, strewing bolts this way and nuts that. Then they, too, 



A PAST WHICH IS GONE FOREVER 439 

became discouraged, and, leaving increased confusion, climbed on 
their chariots again and went on. 

Finally some bright young man discovered we were out of gas. 

As we crossed the huge square in front of the hotel, I saw di- 
rectly ahead of us an enormous pile of bricks with wide spaces on 
both sides. Closer and closer we came. "When will the driver turn?" 
I asked myself. But he never did; we went right over the top and 
the bricks slipped out from under. That was the Russian system. 
You could not go round an obstacle ; you must go over it. 

Enlarged portraits of Lenin and Stalin were in all public build- 
ings. Their statues were everywhere, in every square, on every 
corner. A major industry of Russia seemed to be to find new poses 
for Stalin — standing up, lying down, writing, reading. Often just 
his head, definitely recognizable in spite of the predominance of red, 
was designed in flower beds. One of the most delicate attentions was 
to give him a different colored necktie on different days ; the plants 
were kept in pots to make this charming gesture possible. 

After the Revolution when peace had come, connoisseurs from 
various countries had been invited to examine the recovered statues, 
rugs, tapestries, and objets d'art stolen from the palaces and churches. 
One by one the priceless paintings were displayed, specialists ren- 
dered their opinions, commercial dealers furnished appraisals, stenog- 
raphers took down every word. The same was done with the lapis 
lazuli tables, the snuff boxes, the court jewels. 

The interesting part of the new arrangement was that the inter- 
pretation was entirely Marxian. Pictures, instead of being hung ac- 
cording to the orthodox history of art, were fitted into the In- 
dustrial Revolution. A certain Madonna was not admired for its 
qualities of color or form, or as a thing of beauty in itself ; the guide 
explained to you that it was created at such and such a time when the 
Church was trying to get a hold over the people, when artists were 
starving and had to look for their means of livelihood to the patronage 
of the Church. 

Later, in the Kremlin at Moscow we saw fantastic and incredi- 
ble riches, jeweled saddles, a whole set of harness studded with tur- 
quoise, a huge casket cloth embroidered with thousands of pearls. 
In order to place the period of the latter I asked Tanya where it had 



44-0 MARGARET SANGER 

come from. She replied in her precise English, "You see, it is for 
to cover the dead. You see, in Russia there was such a custom. When 
they died they put them in the ground. It was such a custom, you 
see, to cover them with cloths." 

She spoke of the Tsarist Regime as though it had been centuries 
ago. 

One of the pictures was a Christ removed from the cross and 
lying on the ground. Tanya said, "People used to come here, and 
they even kissed it !" This she uttered in the tone of scorn of a very 
youthful generation shocked and horrified at the ancient traditions. 

"Our hope is in the young people," she said frequently. 

"But how old are you ?" 

"Oh, I'm thirty-two," as though she were doddering. 

Grant and I were once walking by a group of children when a 
small boy pointed at us and remarked, "Ah, there go some of the 
dying race." To them all Amerikanski were capitalists. 

The Marxian ideology had been applied to every phase of life. 
H.G., accompanied by Gyp, his biologist son, had flown over from 
London. Since he wanted an opportunity to go around alone, he 
rather resented being so closely guarded and courteously guided. 
After talking with Stalin he had come to the conclusion that the Dic- 
tator had no understanding of economics. He was somewhat an- 
noyed at the constant interpretation of everything in terms of poli- 
tics, and of having Marx stuffed down his throat at every turn. 

At the schools you might ask what kind of mathematics they 
taught. 

"Marx." 

"And what system of engineering?" 

"Marx." 

No matter what the question, the answer was Marx. 

The Anti-Religious Museum, once a cathedral, was directly across 
from the Astoria. Each half -hour little girls, who seemed hardly 
more than ten or twelve, their sleeves hanging down over their 
finger tips, with great dignity conducted excursions of peasants 
through. Their lecture started with the fundamental principle that 
the earth was round. A bas-relief of the world was underneath the 
huge pendulum which hung from the dome. If you stood there long 



A PAST WHICH IS GONE FOREVER 44I 

enough you saw it swing from one point to a further one. They 
were trying to show that it was within man's power to make his own 
heaven. 

Here were kept the relics of the churches, the icons laden with 
silver and gold wrung from the poor peasants in the past. Actual 
concrete things were reduced to their simplest terms on large poster- 
type murals which depicted stories, a necessary practice since the 
muzhiks were so generally illiterate. In one a kulak was coming to 
the priest with a sick child in his arms, asking for prayers to cure 
its illness. The priest, fat and clad in rich robes, shook his head, say- 
ing, "You must bring money for the saint. The saint will not cure 
your child unless her arms are covered with silver." But the kulak 
had only his farm. "Mortgage it and get the money," the priest or- 
dered. Soon the kulak returned with silver, and the mural showed 
how now the saint's arm was almost hidden. But still the child re- 
mained sick. "The saint's halo is bare," said the priest. At last the 
whole figure was silvered, but the baby died just the same. 

Opposite this mural was pictured the Soviet way. The father car- 
ried the baby to the hospital, where nurses with gauze across their 
mouths took it preciously, bathed it carefully, laid it in bed. The en- 
tire sterilizing process was illustrated — the doctor in white gown and 
cap, scrubbing and washing each hand five minutes as marked by a 
clock. Finally you saw the child, healthy and well, jumping into its 
mother's arms. 

The people stood there looking, their imaginations fired. They 
said, "This is what is happening to us." 

Most particularly I wanted to investigate what had been done for 
women and children in Russia, to learn whether they had been given 
the rights and liberties due them in any humanitarian civilization. 
Grant, Rose, as she was known to me, and I went one day to the In- 
stitute for the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood, a vast 
establishment stretching over several miles, with model clinics, nurs- 
eries, milk centers, and educational laboratories. I was overwhelmed 
in contemplating the undertaking. There was no doubt that the Gov- 
ernment was exerting itself strenuously to teach the rudiments of 
hygiene to an enormous population that had previously known noth- 
ing of it. Russia was also aiming to free women from the two bonds 



442 MARGARET SANGER 

that enslaved them most — the nursery and the kitchen. All over the 
country were creches connected with the places they worked. 

Children were the priceless possessions of Russia. Their time was 
planned for them from birth to the age of sixteen, when they were 
paid to go to college, if they so desired. No longer were they a drain 
or burden to their families. Not only were teachers or parents for- 
bidden to inflict corporal punishment, but children might even re- 
port their parents for being vindictive, ill-humored, disorderly, and 
in many cases they did so. 

In one divorce dispute as to custody of the offspring, the father 
argued that the mother was bad. The Judge asked, "Of what does her 
badness consist?" 

"She is nervous and loses her temper." 

The Judge agreed she was not fit for motherhood. 

Furthermore, Russia was investing in future generations by build- 
ing a healthy race. If there were any scarcity of milk the children 
were supplied first, the hospitals second, members of the Communist 
party third, industrial groups fourth, professional classes fifth, and 
old people over fifty had to scrape along on what they could get, un- 
less they were parents of Communists or closely associated with 
them. 

I was eager also to find out what had been done about the study 
carried on by Professor Tushnov, of the Institute for Experimental 
Medicine, on so-called spermatoxin, a substance which, it had been 
rumored, produced temporary sterility in women. I made an ap- 
pointment with him, but a shock awaited me. He had tried out his 
spermatoxin on thirty women, twenty-two of whom had been made 
immune for from four to five months, but now all laboratory work- 
ers had been taken from pure research and set at utilitarian tasks 
such as the practical effects of various vocations on women's health. 
Nothing concerning immunization to conception could be published 
in Soviet Russia, no information could be given out under penalty of 
arrest, and, moreover, nothing could appear in a foreign paper which 
had not already been printed in Russia. 

Intourist, the Government tourist bureau, and Voks, the All- 
Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, had 
asked me when I had first arrived whom I wished to see and where 



A PAST WHICH IS GONE FOREVER 443 

I wished to go, and had offered to call up people on my list and ar- 
range for visits, a service which had saved me much trouble and ex- 
pense. In spite of this co-operative attitude, I was suspicious that 
much was being hidden from us. Before I had left America I had 
heard I could see only what Russia presented for window-dressing, 
and with this in mind I was on the alert. 

Both Grant and I wondered how the hospitals built under the 
Tsars compared with recent ones. When I asked to be taken to a cer- 
tain one, I was assured it was too far away, and anyhow it was being 
renovated; there was nobody there. I said to myself, "Aha! here is 
one of the forbidden sights. Whoever heard of a hospital equipped 
to handle thousands of patients being utterly empty? They are not 
going to let us see this because it might speak in favor of the old in 
contrast to the new." 

Politely but firmly I insisted. Again I was told there were so many 
other interesting things it would be a pity to waste my time going 
to see it. I found it difficult to say anything further without giving 
offense. Then Grant encountered a young American nurse from the 
Presbyterian Hospital in New York who spoke Russian; she also 
wanted to visit hospitals. We engaged a car of our own and drove a 
good fifteen miles out of the city over horrible roads, winding and 
dusty and badly paved, and even pushing on as rapidly as we could 
we did not get there until late in the afternoon. To our dismay we 
discovered not a patient, doctor, or nurse in the place, only plaster- 
ers, painters, carpenters, and cleaners, pulling down and refurbish- 
ing. We had lost half a day and were a little ashamed of our lack 
of faith. 

The night came to take the train for Moscow. Nobody called "All 
aboard !" in Russia. Trains went right off underneath you when you 
had one foot on the platform and one on the step. They just moved 
and moved fast. But we clambered on and soon the leather seats 
were made into our beds ; they were so slippery that we kept falling 
out. 

Once at Moscow, we who were coming second-class, according to 
Marxian procedure, received the worst rooms at the hotel ; those 
who traveled third had the best. I could not applaud the one selected 
for me. It was directly over the laundry, and the smells of cooking 



444 MARGARET SANGER 

and suds floated through the window. I refused to stay and was ac- 
commodated on the top floor where the servants had once lived. 

Moscow was as different from Leningrad as New York City from 
a sleepy Pennsylvania town. The people walked more quickly and 
seemed to be going somewhere, not simply wandering listlessly. Bed- 
lam existed at the hotels, but by now we were beginning to learn 
that the Russians were so concerned with their own efficiency that 
they had no time to do anything. To be in a hurry merely compli- 
cated matters. I could wait, but for energetic Rose it was torture. To 
all specific requests they replied, "It cannot be. It cannot be." She 
had her own methods of coping with this, saying she did not wish 
to hear the word, "impossible" ; she had no intention of asking the 
impossible. Then when they procrastinated with, "a little later," she 
countered, 'Tn America we say, 'now !' " 

Her triumph over dilatoriness came on Health Day. Since health 
was almost a god in Russia, all activities ceased on that occasion and 
the populace of Moscow came together on Red Square. The spectacle 
was to start at two in the afternoon, but before it was light you 
could hear the songs of men, women, and children moving towards 
their appointed stations. 

Out of our party only thirty were privileged to receive tickets, 
and their names were posted. Mrs. Clyde and I were on the list, but 
not Grant or Rose. The previous day the numbers were cut to 
twenty; that morning there were but sixteen, and feeling ran high. 
"Why haven't I a ticket?" 

Fortunately for me I had been invited to lunch by Ambassador 
William C. Bullitt, who entertained lavishly and was helpful to 
traveling Americans. When I had met him back in New England, I 
had never thought of him as an ambassador, nor as a man skilled in 
dealing with the great problems that required strategy, diplomacy, 
political sagacity, and a prime knowledge of economics and history. 
I considered him rather as amusing, an excellent dinner host, and 
one to whom you could go when in difficulty, sure that he would get 
you out. Perhaps this was what Russia wanted at that time more 
than anything else. No doubt he was then somewhat disappointed at 
the turn relations between Russia and the United States had taken. 
Russians on the whole admired him; they had not forgotten that, 



A PAST WHICH IS GONE FOREVER 445 

although he was not counted a proletarian or in the category of Jack 
Reed, he had lifted the cudgels for them in the early days when 
friends were needed. 

The Ambassador's little daughter Ann, aged ten, officiated at the 
head of the table, apparently enjoying herself. The house in which 
they were living while the new Embassy was being built had an 
architecture quite befitting what I imagined the style of Russia should 
be — a bit of the Kremlin, a bit of a mosque, and a bit of an Indian 
palace. 

On the way to the Square after luncheon a wave of people surged 
between the rest of the diplomatic party and myself, but I kept say- 
ing "diplomatique," and was bowed through to the grandstand. 

Meanwhile Rose had been devoting her whole attention to tickets 
— and there were no tickets. The lucky holders lined up and filed off 
under a leader. Rose, the ever resourceful, donned a red bandanna 
and said to the "forgotten men" in the party, "We'll make our own 
battalion." She handed out slips of paper about the size of the tickets 
and then started, Grant and the Harvard professors following her 
through the blare of music and the tramping troops and the pagean- 
try of blue trunks and white shirts, orange trunks and cerise shirts. 

Whenever anyone stopped Rose she pointed ahead and repeated 
my open sesame, "diplomatique," and they let her by until she reached 
the last barrier. There the guard was suspicious of her password and 
challenged her. Then she spied another group coming up, dashed 
over to the leader, and exclaimed, "Quick, please explain that our 
interpreter has gone on with our tickets !" 

The woman looked unbelieving, but still others arrived at that 
moment, and the Russian system collapsed under pressure. In they 
all piled, and Rose turned to her unknown benefactress, "You don't 
know how grateful I am to you for getting us in." 

The reply was, "You don't know how grateful I am to you for 
getting us in ! I'm a tourist too, and we have no tickets either." 

Nobody seeing Moscow that day could have thought it a somber 
place. It was alive with song, happy faces, bright attire. The parade 
of a hundred thousand or more was one of the most marvelous spec- 
tacles for color, form, cadence, geometrical precision that I had ever 
seen human beings accomplish. Men and women were representing 



446 MARGARET SANGER 

all sorts of games and sports — swimming, shooting, tennis, flying. 
There was nothing tawdry. Each company held aloft beautifully de- 
signed placards as it passed Stalin, who stood on top of Lenin's 
tomb. The Dictator looked much like his pictures, with his heavy black 
mustache resembling the wings of a bird of prey. 

All day long and everywhere you heard the Internationale, over 
and over and over again. Each band struck up as it approached the 
Tomb and kept playing as it swung on. Always the stirring song 
from those coming up, those far away — overtones, undertones, 
thrilling, insistent, now loud in your ears, now dimly echoing in the 
distance, a rhythmic motif symbolizing the onward march of Young 
Russia. 



Chapter Thirty-six 



FAITH IS A FINE INVENTION 



"There is a great difference between traveling to see countries 
and to see people." 

JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU 



ttrT"^OVARISH wishes to see you," came a call from the 

X hotel desk. For a moment I could not place the name, and 
the face had changed so completely that I could but faintly trace a 
resemblance to the boy I had seen before. He reminded me I had 
mown him in Seattle as one who had assisted in getting up birth 
control meetings. When the Wobblies were being arrested in the 
United States he had hired out as a stoker on a boat, and gradually 
made his way to Russia, where he thought he could help to usher in 
the new society. 

Here was one person who had not had the best of the bargain. He 
was shabbily dressed and looked dilapidated, evidently having seen 
hard times, and had a beaten expression in his eyes. Yet, disillu- 
sioned as he was, he had not come to complain. Since it was four in 
the afternoon, the lunch hour in Russia, I asked him to join me in 
the dining room, conducted like a large commons. The waiters seemed 
disgruntled, unhappy, inept and knew very little about service; they 
glanced scornfully at the man who sat down beside me. The one 
lively note was the orchestra, which threw itself into marches and 
wild and spirited Caucasian or Slavic folk dances while we ate. 

My guest said this was the best meal he had had since leaving 
America. "Why don't you come back?" I asked. 

"I couldn't get in." 

"Would you if you could ?" 

447 



448 MARGARET SANGER 

"Just give me a chance !" 

I suppose it was inevitable that in such a social upheaval many 
suffered. I called upon Dr. Peter Tutyshkin, who had tried to at- 
tend our 1925 Conference in New York, but had arrived too late. 
As was the case with most professional men of his years, he had been 
of the old aristocracy. He and his wife and two daughters, both 
physicians, had owned a beautiful home. Now the thousands of vol- 
umes of what had formerly comprised his fine medical and scientific 
library had been taken away, and he and his wife slept and ate in 
the room which had contained them. He was margined and rationed 
to the last degree, and I could feel his humiliation at having so little 
food that he could not offer us a cup of tea. 

While we were in Moscow, the Eddy party and the select six 
whom Louis Fischer was piloting, crossed our path. Fischer, a Rus- 
sian living in Moscow and writing for the Nation, published in the 
United States, invited Grant and me to go along with them to meet 
the Secretary of the Commissariat of Public Health, Dr. Kaminsky. 
We went up a wide open stairway like that of a courthouse and into 
a spacious room with high windows running from floor to ceiling in 
French fashion and a huge banquet table laden with the invariable 
afternoon tea. 

Dr. Kaminsky addressed us. "Our worst heritage from the Old 
Regime was in the field of medicine. The main task before us is to 
unite science and practice. Our medicine is a form of social insur- 
ance, our medical policy based on prevention. We are not interested 
in profit, only service." 

The Russians had been kind and had grasped very quickly any im- 
provement suggested to them, even accepting criticism with great 
tolerance. Aware of this, when Dr. Kaminsky paused for questions, 
Grant inquired about doctors entering private practice. 

"As Russia builds up public health work," was the answer, "more 
doctors will be able to find room for private practice if they so de- 
sire." 

Sherwood Eddy slipped me a note. "Here's your opportunity to 
bring up birth control." 

I took my cue. "Has Russia a population policy? Has she formu 
lated any program for the rate of increase of her people?" 



FAITH IS A FINE INVENTION 449 

The audience stirred as though I had hurled a grenade. The in- 
terpreter leaped to his feet and shrieked, "Malthusianism ! We will 
not have Malthusianism here! We do not need it. Do you think 
or imply that Soviet Russia has to advance Malthusian ideas? We 
can have all the children we want and Russia can do with twice the 
population she now has." He went on and on. 

After waiting a few moments for the air to clear, I continued, "I 
have asked Dr. Kaminsky a simple question which I will repeat. I 
said nothing about Malthusianism. But I should like to know whether 
Russia has a population policy. She has had five- and even ten-year 
plans for agriculture and manufacture and everything she is mak- 
ing. But what has she done about the most important issue today — 
population, its growth and distribution?" 

Fischer was whispering to Dr. Kaminsky, evidently telling him 
what I wanted to know. The doctor replied, "If I understood correctly, 
you are asking if there is any policy from the biological or economic 
point of view." 

"I am asking whether Russia, in planning her industries, has any 
plan also as to the eventual control of families. I know you have much 
freedom for women and a fine technique for abortions. To us that 
is extremely significant, because after a woman has been aborted 
she returns to the same conditions and becomes pregnant again. Four 
hundred thousand abortions a year indicate women do not want to 
have so many children; in my opinion it is a cruel method of dealing 
with the problem because abortion, no matter how well done, is a 
terrific nervous strain and an exhausting physical hardship." 

Dr. Kaminsky's answer was not encouraging. "There is no ques- 
tion as to the increase of population. There is no policy as to the 
question of biological restrictions; on the contrary there is a policy 
of increasing the population. For six years we have had a great 
shortage, not only of skilled workers, but of labor in general." 

Obviously, I was not a particularly welcome visitor. 

By chance I was fortunate enough to encounter again Dr. Marthe 
Ruben- Wolf, who with her husband and children had escaped from 
Nazi Germany and was then at the head of a Moscow abortorium. 
Because of her wide experience in Germany, where clinics had been 
under municipal guidance, she was one of the few Communists who 



450 MARGARET SANGER 

was sane on the subject of population. She very kindly helped me 
with some of my interviews. 

Any woman in Russia who requested it was entitled to abortion 
dn application to a doctor. She was told of the dangers, warned it 
might result in sterility, charged about two dollars and a half. We 
talked to about fifty patients who had already been there three days. 
None had temperatures. They were very jolly and going home that 
afternoon to rest for another week or two. Then they would go 
back to work with no deduction in wages. Though some of these 
women had had five abortions in two years and one had had eight, 
they could not sing too highly the praises of their country for allow- 
ing the operations. When I asked whether they would not prefer to 
have some information as to how to avoid further ones by protect- 
ing themselves from pregnancy, each and all replied, "We have no 
such thing. We hear of it, but we have nothing. Russia is too poor. 
We hope she will soon get it." 

In only one place did I see a clinic in the sense that we use the 
word here, and that was in Moscow where Dr. Kabanova had sixty 
women the afternoon we viewed it. Great credit is also due Madame 
Lebedova who organized the original establishment of the Institutes 
for the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood, laid down the 
principles to be followed, and persisted until they had been embodied 
in a definite program. 

\ Dr. Abram B. Genss, assistant director, was in charge of contra- 
ceptive supplies and the administration of birth control, such as it 
was. He was antagonistic, disagreeable, unpleasant, shouting "Mal- 
thusianism" into my ears more times in one hour than I had heard it 
before in twenty years. The methods in the Moscow clinic were 
antiquated, and I suggested sending a physician to instruct them, but 
my proposal was not acceptable. 

I considered Russia's situation very serious. Her population was 
a matter of mathematics; it had increased some fifty million since 
the downfall of the Empire. Unless she looked ahead and educated 
her people in the problems which arose out of population, within 
two generations she would find herself with the same differential 
birth rate then existing in England and the United States. It would, 
however, have much more tragic consequences since it would lower 



FAITH IS A FINE INVENTION 45 1 

the augmentation of the capable, skilled, shock troops of industry, 
the idealists and active, selfless workers, and would multiply from 
the bottom unskilled, ignorant, dull-witted workers, the superstitious 
element which even the greatest efforts of a Soviet dictatorship run- 
ning at top speed could not pull up and out of their evolutional en- 
vironment. 

I really began to see Russia under another guise after we stepped 
on the train from Moscow to Gorky, the former Nizhni Novgorod. 
Around the big, city hotels vendors had been trying to dispose of 
soft, warm sables and gold-embroidered altar pieces evidently reft 
from churches, asking good prices for them. But now the peasant 
women offered tea cozies, wooden boxes, carved and painted, dolls, 
leather, brass, knickknacks for the tourist, quite unlike anything ob- 
tainable elsewhere in Europe, and always, of course, Russian blouses. 

The side-wheel steamer Kommunistka, small but comfortable, was 
waiting to carry us down the Volga to Stalingrad. Our party occu- 
pied practically all available cabins, but hundreds of Russians were 
jammed on the decks. At some points the river was a mile wide as 
it slid between flat landscapes, limitless as far as the eye could reach. 
Often we overtook rafts of logs, some at least a quarter of a mile 
long, each bearing a diminutive house where the captain and his fam- 
ily lived. You could see the children scampering back and forth and 
the crew pushing it leisurely into the current. 

We were four days in transit, passing many villages and a few 
towns — Kazan, Samara, and Saratov; I do not remember the cities 
clearly. Some places are indelible in your mind; others amount to 
very little. If you are searching for something and do not find it, 
the scene vanishes. 

At every stop men and women accompanied by children and baskets 
of belongings were collected in hundreds. They had come a week or 
more early to make sure of catching the boat, spending the nights 
on the ground, subsisting on a loaf of bread, a tomato, or a cu- 
cumber. Their children were taken care of in the station creche, 
bathed, dressed in fresh clothing, taught, directed in play, delivered 
to the parents just before the Kommunistka landed. 

Then came the mad scramble. It was like the old days on Ellis 
Island when the peasants from Europe arrived, thousands of them, 



452 MARGARET SANGER 

carrying huge bundles on their heads, shoving and rushing and jab- 
bering in strange tongues, attempting to squeeze in. You wondered 
how so many people could ever get on board. They had no comforts, 
no room to sleep such as we. They appeared stark and hungry, while 
we had marvelous food, in fact too much of it. Any American plan- 
ning to lose weight in Russia was badly disappointed. 

Stalingrad, near the mouth of the Volga, was Russia's greatest 
industrial city. Here I saw a hotel which was going up in front and 
falling down behind with about equal rapidity; the building ma- 
terial was lying in the streets. In the one in which we lodged we had 
to dodge spigots. Plumbing had been laid on all over the country, 
but the stream from any tap never by any chance landed where it was 
intended to. You approached cautiously, not knowing whether it would 
get you in the eye, in the nose, or shoot over your shoulder and hit your 
suitcase. The bathroom had no lock, and the attendant insisted it was 
his job to help patrons take a bath. I pushed on one side of the door ; he 
on the other. I won. 

At Stalingrad, as everywhere I had been before, I was looking for 
Russian contraceptive methods, but having been discouraged both 
by Dr. Kaminsky and Dr. Genss, I went at it rather carefully. When 
I visited the impressive new hospital I asked the superintendent, who 
was a gynecologist and spoke good English, whether he gave contra- 
ceptive advice. 

"I do not, but we have a department of consultation." 

"May I see it?" I had already surveyed about fifteen such, where 
I had found nothing save exhibits on the wall. 

"It's just across the road." 

"Will you go with me ?" I asked. "Elsewhere it's been hard to get 
information." 

He agreed readily. As we entered, an attendant was displaying 
lengthy diagrams to some tourists being shepherded through, and 
telling them birth control was taught in hospitals throughout Russia. 
Someone I knew came up to me. "This is wonderful, Mrs. Sanger, 
the people are being taught birth control by the Government." 

The posters were there to prove this, but the consultation room it- 
self was locked. "Who is in charge here?" demanded the superin- 



FAITH IS A FINE INVENTION 453 

tendent. "I've been sending patients over. Who takes care of them?" 

"I do sometimes," a woman assistant volunteered. She let us into 
the room. There were the same cases I had seen everywhere, probably 
untouched since 1925, the articles within moldy and cracked. 

"What do you use ?" I asked. 

"We have nothing. We've asked and asked Moscow, but we get 
nothing." 

The superintendent was much embarrassed ; he inquired how long 
it had been since supplies had come. 

"Two years." 

"Why?" 

"We don't know." 

"Well, what about the patients I send over here?" 

"We just tell them to go home and wait. We have nothing for 
them." 

From Stalingrad we took the train to Ordzonikidze, the beginning 
of the Georgian Military Highway through the Caucasus to Tiflis. 
After the usual breakfast of Russian tea, black bread, and fresh 
caviar, which I found delicious, we climbed into four open-topped 
char-a-bancs, filling them to capacity. Enormous trucks came behind 
with our luggage. For about two hours we rolled along by the side 
of the river Terek, which was running dark and going so fast that 
the only thing I could think of was the streams from Swiss glaciers, 
but instead of being ice-green, this was muddy, splashing up on the 
road. The guides told us there had been a two-day, torrential rain, 
the worst the Caucasus had ever known. 

About ten we stopped to stretch our legs at a village. Groups of 
lusty mountaineers stared at us, grinning good-humoredly as though 
we were as odd as any freaks in a circus. They gave us cheese and 
bread ; some of us bought wine and tea, not knowing when we might 
leave. After three hours we were still at the village when finally men 
with great high hats and military-looking, astrakhan capes rode up 
on horseback and spoke to our guides who, not being Georgian, had 
difficulty divining they were trying to say our cars could not pass. 

We thought it was just like the Russians to fuss about a few little 
obstacles, and said there must be some way to get through. Off we 



454 MARGARET SANGER 

went, and our drivers were magnificent. With the stubbornness of 
tractors we plunged across streams and over rocks; when trees 
blocked the road, they lifted the trunks, branches and all. We drove 
on and on, slowly, and at last, towards five o'clock, came to a spot 
where there was nothing before us — nothing but the mountain side 
sheer to the swirling water. 

Out clambered the eighty tourists, youthful and aged, tall and 
short, thin and fat. We could see the road begin about a quarter of 
a mile beyond, a sultry sun smiling on the peaks of the mountains. 
The river was still rising. One of our guides waded in to test whether 
we could ford it, and was soon practically up to his middle in the 
turbid flood. Grant began ferrying old ladies over the deep places and 
a couple of boys carried the two-hundred-and-ten-pound Professor 
Ross. The current was terrific, and people kept falling. 

After nearly three hours everybody was across. Our leader found 
a horse, galloped off to secure new buses, which arrived and took us 
to the town where we were supposed to have lunch. But it was now 
dark and lunch became supper. More conversations, more consulta- 
tions, more delay, more mystery. Why did we not start ? The answer 
was that three strange men were sitting in one of our cars — Russians 
who wanted to get to Tiflis. They were going to have their rights. 
When pleading, arguing, reasoning could not move them, the G.P.U. 
had to be invoked ; still no results. Not until they had been promised 
that a bus would leave immediately did they descend and make room 
for the three of our group whose seats they had usurped. 

We rattled off again, only to be turned back. Another long halt 
and more conversation. Ultimately, since buses had been dispatched 
from Tiflis to meet us and were waiting about six miles away, it was 
decided to push on. 

Then began the real drive through Godaur Pass, up and over rocks 
and embankments, roots of trees, sand and water, precarious detours 
in a night as jet as any I have ever seen. The militia had been ordered 
by Moscow to keep the route open — green skyrockets for us to come 
ahead, red ones to stop, and swinging lanterns in front of the worst 
danger spots — great drops down into ravines. At last we reached 
the end and mounted a new set of buses, but only three of them. 



FAITH IS A FINE INVENTION 455 

Grant was among those who stayed behind. We arrived at Tiflis at 
two in the morning. Dinner was ready as well as clean beds, and we 
slept until the humid sun stirred us out for breakfast, just as the rest 
came straggling in. 

It was Sunday morning; Lining the steps of the old Georgian 
cathedral were beggar women — lame, blind, filthy — never had I 
seen any others in Russia. Children were curiously looking on at 
the Mass, but we were told parents were forbidden to make them go 
to church. The few elderly women attending were carrying flowers 
and had twined them also around the frames of the saints' pictures. 
We tourists presented an incongruous contrast to the priests with 
their long beards and splendid robes. 
—^ Tiflis had slipped the yoke of Moscow. Here among the mosques 
and the camels and the bazaars, which gave it a definitely Oriental 
tinge, we finally saw signs of private enterprise. Back in the moun- 
tains were tribes the Soviet was trying to civilize — warlike, uncul- 
tured, barbaric. Stalin, sentimental for the country of his origin 
perhaps, was choosing as many Georgians as he could for high places 
and sending in teachers and moving pictures to educate the others, 
but the task was herculean. 

It was hot, torrid noon when we arrived at Batum on the Black 
Sea. The sun was pouring down; we wanted to go swimming to 
cool off, and were directed to a stony beach. The water was darkened 
by the heavy, rich deposit which coated the bottom, and the sand, of 
the same color, was strewn with masses of people just like Coney 
Island, thousands of them on the seaweed-covered rocks. It did not 
look pleasant and we walked further. A partition of slats through 
which there was perfect visibility was supposed to divide the women 
from the men, but despite having heard so much about the nude bath- 
ing there, we discovered everyone had on suits — astounding, old- 
fashioned garments. 

Mrs. Clyde declined to go in, but sat watching in her hat and 
glasses. Tanya kept on pink panties and a brassiere. The rest of us 
determined to throw off our inhibitions. Once you did this you were 
freed from them for the time being; it was the doing that was so 
hard. Most surprising were the New England schoolteachers, who 



456 MARGARET SANGER 

had certainly never before removed their clothes in public. They 
dashed their long, lean bodies boldly into the water as though to say, 
"Russia, here we come !" 

The steamer on which we left Batum was dirty, loaded with 
passengers who had to be stepped over as they slept on deck. If you 
left your stateroom even a few moments somebody grabbed it and 
took your bed. 

But the scenery of the Russian Riviera was very lovely. The spurs 
of the Caucasus along the coast glittered with marble palaces. I shall 
always remember the mighty, sable cypress trees, slender columns 
silhouetted against the creamy white walls; they were not funereal 
to me, but more like sentinels. 

Only the chosen of the chosen, the executives and the intelligentsia, 
could stay at Yalta for holidays. Many individuals, Agnes Smedley, 
for one, had reason to be grateful to the Soviet for their rest periods. 
Although not a Communist she had written sympathetic articles, and 
the Russian Health Department, hearing she was ill in China, had 
sent her an invitation to come and recuperate, and here she had stayed 
a year without cost, recovering from a strained heart. 

I spent a day in the majestic Byzantine summer palace of Nicholas 
II at near-by Livadia. It was perfectly landscaped with statues, foun- 
tains, terraces. As we drove up multitudinous shaved heads popped 
out open windows. In the marvelous ballroom were a hundred and 
fifty enamel cots, side by side, the sleeping quarters of the men on 
vacation. We saw the room belonging to the former Tsarina, with 
fragile, brocaded walls and delicate panels. In the center of the 
parquet floor, bare of any covering, stood a deal table with checked 
gir^ham cloth. 

Now and then you caught a glimpse of people in the palace, but 
mostly they were reclining in the gardens. As we wandered round 
and round we came upon a cluster of twenty-five asleep, pale, and 
not too well-fed. They did not twitch an eyelid as we approached. I 
asked Tanya, "Who are these?" 

Touching one of them on the shoulder, she said, "Tovarish, these 
tovarishes want to know who you are." 

At that not only he but all of them jumped to their feet, as 



FAITH IS A FINE INVENTION 457 

though at military drill. One after the other gave his name, each 
with a "vich" or a "ski" on the end of it, stating also his occupa- 
tion. As he finished he turned his head to the next, who took up the 
recital. The little woman with bobbed black hair and a curious bodice 
of blue proudly said she wore the Cross of Lenin on her dress because 
with him she had fought for Russia. This was the highest honor any 
woman in Russia could be paid ; only a hundred had it. 

Then the first man bowed politely to Tanya and with dignity said 
something to her. She interpreted to us, "They want to know who 
you are." 

"Tell them we're Americans." 

"North Americans?" with great enthusiasm. 

"Yes." 

Then question after question spattered like a machine gun. "Are 
you from Seattle ? Portland ? How did you get here ? What way did 
you come ? How long did it take you ? How much did it cost ? What 
has happened to Dillinger? What's the latest news of the seamen's 
strike on the Pacific Coast ? How soon comes the Revolution ?" 

We were rather dazed at the degree of current information they 
had gleaned — chiefly from posters in the parks. Their bombardment 
continued. "Do women in America have as much freedom as men?" 
We all disagreed on that. "Can married women work for the Gov- 
ernment? Can they teach school?" Some of us answered "No," 
others, "Yes." On every inquiry of theirs we were divided, but on 
whatever we asked them they were united. 

"Who is your favorite American author?" 

I answered, "I like Sinclair Lewis." 

The woman looked at me accusingly, "Not Theodore Dreiser?" 

"Oh, yes," I agreed, "he's good." 

A man suggested, "Not Upton Sinclair?" 

They were apparently sadly disappointed in us. 

At last one of them, making a sweeping gesture, said to me, "Your 
American Government has never built anything like this for its 
workers, has it?" 

"No," I replied, "we never had a Tsar," which was very tactless 
of me. 



458 MARGARET SANGER 

He answered something to the effect, "You people have opinions 
but no convictions. We have been to prison for ours." 

Tanya volunteered, pointing to me, "This lady has been to prison 
eight times for hers." 

Astonishment was registered, and one man spoke hurriedly to 
Tanya who translated, "He wants to know who you are. Shall I tell 
him?" She then explained I was advocating birth control. 

"Well, we have that. Haven't you visited any of our hospitals? 
Thousands of women have it." 

"No, that's abortion. We don't want that. Birth control is differ- 
ent." 

The conversation had shifted to something concrete and real; we 
had struck up an entente that was very cordiale. The group gathered 
closer. "Come on. Come on. This is important." They had never 
heard of contraception. How could anyone have put me in jail for 
that ? What a crazy government ! Worse than they had thought ! 

The woman said, "We need you over here. Come and work with 
us. Don't waste your life in America." 

From the impatient bus came horns, whistles, bells, summoning us 
away. The whole twenty-five followed us to the char-a-banc, waving 
farewell. 

Tanya was a most discerning little person, ordinarily impassive 
but springing up animatedly the moment music started. One of our 
party invited her, "Come on to America. You'll have pretty clothes, 
and for anyone who can dance like you, fame is waiting." 

"Pretty clothes? I have two dresses, which answer their purpose. 
And as for fame — this is my people. I enjoy dancing, and they en- 
joy me. Why should I go to America?" 

Before I left I wanted to do something for her, give her some sort 
of gift in return for her many services. She was going to be mar- 
ried and, because her mother was old-fashioned, have a registered 
ceremony, call in all her friends, and even don special raiment. I had 
some new stockings with me and presented them to her. She looked 
at them, handled them as though treasuring some lovely thing she 
longed for but could not possess. 

"I wouldn't dare wear them. I would be ashamed because my 
friends could not have the same." 



FAITH IS A FINE INVENTION 459 

Tanya was willing to go without until silk stockings were to be 
had by all. It was necessary to grasp this attitude to understand Soviet- 
ism. It gave you slight personal freedom, and you had to ask your- 
self honestly whether exploitation by government or by individual 
was basically different. But what you did have was security for your 
old age and the hope that when the rewards came you would have 
your share. 

The Russians were a mass of contradictions. One moment I was 
irritated enough to tear them limb from limb, the next prostrate be- 
fore their sincerity and zeal. The more than one hundred and fifty 
races and forty-five languages made for problems that challenged 
man's intelligence. Perhaps no other nation had had a lower order of 
serfdom to arouse from lethargy and put to work on a new civiliza- 
tion. Nothing but admiration could be accorded their attempts and 
achievements. 

But most of the time they were entranced by their own drug of 
idealism. They had swallowed so much of it that they were self- 
hypnotized, and bumped into reality without understanding it. Like 
the Spanish, it was enough for them to say, "It will be," without 
taking sufficient thought as to how to bring it about. 

At Odessa we boarded what then seemed to us by contrast the 
most beautiful ship in the world, the Italian liner Campidoglio, en- 
tering into another domain. A neat, white cloth was spread for you, 
yourself ; no longer did you have a soiled napkin folded for indefinite 
use ; spotless coats adorned the waiters ; our chairs were pulled out ; 
everybody had a proper bed and cabin. It was only a simple ship, 
but it signified Western refinement, and I must say I welcomed it. 
No matter how much proletarian sympathy you might have, you 
appreciated clean tables, dishes, sheets, towels, and a bathroom that 
worked. 

In order to hurry back to school Grant separated from me in Ru- 
mania and my husband joined me in Naples to go to Marienbad. I 
had barely reached there when Grant cabled that Stuart was ill 
again; I left for home the same day. On arrival I found the doctors 
contemplating a radical operation, but I refused to let him have 
another. As an alternative Tucson, Arizona, was suggested for its 
dry, warm climate. His wound was still unhealed when we started. 



460 MARGARET SANGER 

Being stowed away in Stuart's small Ford coupe for days on end 
gave us the best possible opportunity to catch up in our talks and ex- 
periences and place trivial and unimportant events in the pockets of 
memory where they belonged. The joy of thus familiarizing myself 
^ with my grown-up son made me envy mothers who had leisure to 
x grow along with their children or, at least, to watch them develop. 
But it is possible we are all the better friends in adult life; at least we 
adhere to the rights of individuality for ourselves and for each other. 

It was nearing the close of October when one bright morning we 
left El Paso and came across miles and miles of brown and yellow 
desert, up to the hills and mountains. Through the heat waves we 
saw mirages ; we were positive they were lakes. Arizona was so un- 
like any place I had been before ; you either had to be enthralled by 
it or hate and dread it. Not being quick to come to conclusions I was 
not at first sure. But I knew there was a delight in the cool nights 
and the translucent, sunny days with a lovely tang in the air. In the 
beginning it was the people who won me, particularly Mrs. Robert 
P. Bass, daughter of Mrs. Charles Sumner Bird, one of our early 
pioneers. We stayed with her for a short time, and then took a pink 
adobe house out where the desert met the foothills. Stuart grew better. 
In the spring we packed our bags once more in the little car and drove 
away, looking back regretfully at the indescribable Catalinas, on which 
light and clouds played in never-ending change of pattern. 



Chapter Thirty-seven 



WHO CAN TAKE A DREAM FOR TRUTH? 



"Divinity sleeps in stones, breathes in plants, dreams in animals, 
and awakes in human beings." 

INDIAN PROVERB 



SEVERAL times I had approached thejdea of going to India, and 
always something had prevented me. In 1922 when I was near 
by, it was the hot season and everybody had gone to the hill stations. 
In 1928, when I had also made tentative plans, I was not well. I 
think I had, in addition, been reluctant because Katherine Mayo's book 
had left me with such an aching pain I felt powerless to help lift the 
inertia she described. 

Finally, in 1936, I had word from Margaret Cousins, pioneer in 
the Indian women's movement, wife of a poet and university pro- 
fessor, who asked whether I would accept an invitation to attend 
the coming All-India Women's Conference. The previous conference 
had passed a resolution favoring birth control in theory, but now 
they wanted me to assist them to "put teeth in it," to draw up one 
which would outline a practical plan applicable to all castes, to present 
it, and to argue for it. 

Since such a resolution would mean that the movement had now 
gone beyond the point where we had to break in to be heard, and 
would start things in the right direction, I arranged to spend three 
months in India, from November to January, under the auspices of 
the International Information Center, which had been set up in Lon- 
don after the Geneva Conference so that various peoples and coun- 
tries interested in the subject might have some means of contact. 

Mrs. John Phillips, who had fought many battles in Pittsburgh for 

461 



462 MARGARET SANGER 

birth control, suggested that her daughter, a graduate of Vassar and 
a newspaper woman, might come along as my secretary. All the way 
a fine young crowd rallied around the lively Anna Jane, who had as 
great a capacity for laughter as any human being I ever knew. Noth- 
ing was too hard for her, nothing too big or too small for her to do ; 
altogether she was a perfect companion, beginning with our voyage 
to England, and ending in Honolulu. 

Temporarily in London was Gandhi's appointed successor, Pundit 
Jawaharlal Nehru, of a family noted for scholarship. He was the 
youthful leader of the more radical elements in India, much more 
inclined towards Communism than Gandhi. After having been in jail 
for four years he had now been released to see his wife who was ill 
and dying in Germany. I was unable to be present at a reception for 
him, so Anna Jane telephoned to say I was sorry. "Why should Mrs. 
Sanger be sorry?" he said, with the simplicity of the truly great. "She 
can come any time." I did so the next afternoon. 

Nehru was quiet and poised, with a thoughtful manner which im- 
pressed you immediately as one of controlled intelligence. His in- 
tention was to establish in the mind of Young India that Gandhi's 
spiritual doctrines would only be effective if knit with economic and 
sociological principles. 

More recondite than the Indian was the Englishman, Paul Brun- 
ton, small and dark, with a solemn, intense, almost mystic expression 
in his eyes. He was attempting to find what virtue lay in fakirs and 
holy men, combing India for them, and had embodied the result in 
his book, The Search in Secret India. He told me, "Not many holy 
men remain; most of them have gone back into the mountains, in- 
accessible to Westerners. The one for whom I have the greatest regard 
is the sage of Arunachala, the Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai. My wife 
and I have a little hut southwest of Madras, and if you will visit us 
when you reach that section of India, I will see that you come into his 
presence." 

Naturally I accepted his offer eagerly and put it on my "must" list. 

Shortly before my departure from London, a farewell banquet 
was given at the Barber-Surgeons' Hall, a relic of old London known 
to few, and to which you could be admitted only by invitation. It was 
on Monkwell Street in the City near the London Wall and Alders- 



WHO CAN TAKE A DREAM FOR TRUTH? 463 

gate. Well aware of the difficulties of threading that maze, even by 
daylight, I inquired of the carriage attendant at the Savoy whether 
the taxi-driver were familiar with it. 

"Certainly, Madam." 

Off I went with Mrs. Kerr-Lawson, the painter's wife, somewhat 
pressed for time. As usual in November, it was raining. After we 
had serpentined in and out for twenty minutes we began to surmise 
that the driver was lost, and I called to him, "Don't you know the 
way?" 

"Well, I thought it was down 'ere, but it don't seem to be." 

"Why don't you ask somebody ?" 

"W'ere's Barbers' 'All?" He addressed a mail carrier, who paused 
to think, and then said, "Well, it's along there," pointing back from 
where we had come. 

We turned about but had no better luck. The driver stopped at 
least ten people, each in uniform or livery of some kind or other, 
"W'ere's Barbers' 'All?" and all we heard was the echo, "Barbers' 
'All?" He drew up beside a bobby ; even he did not know. 

Finally, we saw smart-looking cars going in a certain direction. 
We said that must be it, and, sure enough, there on the corner 
was the sign. For our own peace of mind we were not last. H.G. was 
close behind us, frothing with fury because he too had been driving 
around Robin Hood's barn. 

Much of the building was locked up, but what we saw was beau- 
tifully preserved. Evidently the Guild of the Barbers had prospered 
in the days when their members did bleeding and leeching, and at- 
tended to other annoyances of humanity, such as pulling teeth. 

The dining room, once the operating theater, was now the fairest 
setting for a dinner that one could have — the service presented by 
Queen Anne, crystal goblets, a silver rose-carved finger bowl, the 
vast Royal Grace Cup given by Henry VIII, like a chalice with a six- 
inch stem, everything used only on rare occasions. The table was like 
an E with the middle left out, and in the center sat Harry Guy in his 
high-backed chair above the rest of us. I was on his right and next 
me was a man whose name had performed almost a miracle for birth 
control in England — Baron Thomas Horder, then physician to the 
Prince of Wales. 



464 MARGARET SANGER 

Sidney Walton, the member without whom this banquet could not 
have taken place, opened the affair as ancient custom prescribed by 
declaiming, "Pray, silence for the King!" After the toast to His 
Majesty, one was drunk to the President of the United States, and 
then my health was proposed; the loving cup, containing about a 
quart of red wine, began to make the rounds. During the toast, three 
people had to be standing — the one holding the cup, the one who just 
had it on the left, and the one on the right who was to receive it. The 
waiter came to wipe the lip hygienically when each had swallowed 
his sip ; this was the sole modern touch. 

London offered me many courtesies. The Italian invasion of Ethi- 
opia was now in full swing. Rumors were abroad that British ships 
were avoiding the Suez Canal ; therefore, I booked on a Dutch line. 
When I mentioned this to Sir John Megaw, former director of the 
Indian Medical Service, he practically stopped breathing and bristled 
in every hair of his head. "What! a P. and O. boat not go through 
the Canal for fear of Italy?" 
"So I've heard." 

"My dear Mrs. Sanger, you can go through the Suez Canal on a 
British boat if the British Navy has to escort you through !" 

Sir John's report calling upon the British Government to make 
some plan for population growth, increase, and distribution for India 
was one of the most intelligent issued by any health officer in this 
age. Although entirely in sympathy with my project, yet he doubted 
whether it would be possible for me to do anything. That I was an 
American, however, he thought might obviate the antagonism which 
would inevitably follow the mention of birth control by anybody 
from the British Isles. 

Almost as soon as the Viceroy of India sailed, we seemed much 
nearer the East. Indian deck hands moved about, distinguishable by 
their slim bodies, brown faces, and turbans, but the English were in 
command of all departments. It must have been a source of resent- 
ment to the Indian passengers to be ignored or treated as inferiors by 
the English Civil Service going to rule them in their own land. 

The ship was second-rate, rocky in a heavy sea, and raucous. The 
blast of bugles for rising and meals had long since been outmoded 
on most passenger liners but was retained here. I was awakened at 



WHO CAN TAKE A DREAM FOR TRUTH? 465 

eight or earlier every morning by the most awful thud, thud, thud 
overhead. After I had had a headache for two days I went up to the 
sports deck and found the English were getting exercise by throwing 
quoits around directly above my stateroom. 

The Suez Canal was bright with yellow sand and blue sky. We 
slowly steamed past two Italian transports with bandaged soldiers on 
the decks, invalided home from Ethiopia. As far as conversation on 
our own vessel went, no one would have suspected there was a war. 
Not an Englishman brought up the subject, and, if drawn into a dis- 
cussion, he eluded it by saying his country could jolly well look after 
itself. 

Once we were in the Red Sea, passengers and officers emerged in 
white; the decks were roofed with canvas so that the games might 
go on. Most of these British had traveled so much they had a sea- 
faring routine. They indulged in sports in the morning, dressed ap- 
propriately. From two to four in the afternoon a pall of silence 
descended. All the chairs on the deck were occupied by dozing, 
browsing loungers. But as soon as the tea things appeared, life be- 
gan to be interesting. Music burst forth from the orchestra, babies 
were brought up from the nursery, everybody hurried to and fro 
from chair to table, picking and choosing cakes or buns, sand- 
wiches or plain bread and jam. After dinner again the full, blazing 
lights gave ample illumination for the interminable deck tennis and 
quoits. 

Bombay from the distance was a city of tall buildings. Not until 
very close could you see the sizzling heat on the water; the hot sun 
and heavy air made it unpleasant to stand on deck. The wharf was 
rilled, the British easily recognizable by their sola topees, the ugliest 
headgear in the world. All were waving with great excitement, and 
many carried flower garlands for visitors or those coming home. 
Amid scrambling and confusion coolies swarmed aboard for lug- 
gage. A delegation of about fifty welcomed us, including Edith How- 
Martyn, who had been sounding out popular and religious sentiment, 
and Dr. A. P. Pillay, editor of the magazine, Marriage Hygiene, the 
man most active in eugenics and birth control in India. 

I had written to Gandhi and a reply from him greeted me at the 
boat, "Do by all means come whenever you can, and you shall stay 



466 MARGARET SANGER 

with me, if you would not mind what must appear to you to be our 
extreme simplicity; we have no masters and no servants here." 

The evening was hot and oppressive indoors but mild and balmy 
outside, and I sauntered under a lovely, deep sky. The women, small 
of body, ankles, and wrists, with well-formed features, and softly 
spoken as the Japanese, whether poor or not, wore bracelets, anklets, 
rings in the ears, and some a button jewel in the side of the nose. 
Seldom were any in Western costume; almost always they wore 
saris, graceful folds draped over their heads. Men and boys were 
stretched out on the walks, their only belongings the mats on which 
they lay. It was revolting to see something stir in the dust, and watch 
rags change into a human being sleeping there. 

The next afternoon I had my first meeting in Cowasji Jehangir 
Hall, the largest in Bombay, and clamorously noisy. It was open to 
the street, and trams went wobbling by, pedestrians talked loudly, 
and dozens and dozens of electric fans purred round and round and 
round. You had to speak at the very top of your throat in order to 
be heard; Indians were accustomed to the British enunciation and 
the British pitch and found American English difficult to under- 
stand. Looking down on the audience was like gazing at a choppy 
sea; it was a broken mass of Gandhi white caps, shaped rather like 
those worn by our soldiers overseas. They were not removed in the 
house, in shops, or even at table. Everywhere in India you saw them, 
showing how large was his following. 

I had been told that unmarried women did not exist in India and 
none of the cultured class worked for wages. However, the very day 
I landed I met three girls who were still single, gave their time to 
help the outcasts, and had small apartments of their own. Two of them 
were trying to be independent; another received an allowance from 
her father who, though disapproving, supplied her livelihood. 

It had been predicted also t